We finally ended our road trip through Turkey in Istanbul where I found the name for this project.
At the Topkapi Palace is an impressive portrait gallery of the original Sultans, the Ottoman rulers of yore, and there was just no denying the resemblances of faces and postures between the subjects of the old paintings and the men we had just photographed.
Like most people who are groovy with Democracy, I’m not big on the concept of royalty, as a matter of fact it creeps me out quite a bit. However, many of the common men we photographed had a quiet dignity that came across as noble. The more I thought about it the more I had fun envisioning the new Sultans as working farmers, shepherds and fisherman instead of inheritors of power and wealth.
These paintings were often done by Italian artists like Bellini whose portrait of Sultan Mehmet II is at the top of this page.
As we were walking through Istanbul’s great bazaar in the following days we found simple hand drawn copies of these portraits on pages cut out of old books. We bought one of Mehmet II, a ruler famous for conquering Constantinople, an event that eventually marked the divide between the middle ages and (more) modern times.
Another portrait we purchased was of AbdulHamid II, who was one of the later Sultans. He was not exactly known for his skillful governing, but rather for escaping dozens of attempts on his life. He was also such a cruel, murderous ruler that he earned himself the nick name “The Red Sultan”. But who can stay mad at a guy wearing a fez. I know I can’t.