This medal was made by Gentile Bellini for Mehmed II c. 1480. Mehmed had requested an artist, and since the Venetians needed to restart trade with the Ottoman Empire, they quickly dispatched their foremost painter at the time, Gentile Bellini. Gentile Bellini wanted to gain the sultan's favor and respect, so he likely designed the medal around the same time he gave Mahmed a precious sketchbook. The medal currently resides in the British Museum [See British Museum].
The bronze medal was made from a cast. The medal shown is the only one made by Bellini, although there are several medals that are still around. Based on the Roman coin which also had portraits of rulers, medals such as these were gifts and shown as signs as respect, and many were created for Mehmed II. Venice was trying to win the Sultan's favor, which is why the best Venetian painter, Bellini, was sent to him. However, this medal is assumed to have been crafted after Bellini returned to Venice, and after Mehmed's death in 1481 [See Mehmed II].
Local Historical Context:
The medal was cast by Venetian painter Gentile Bellini depicting the Ottoman Empire's late Sultan Mehmed II. Bellini and Mehmed II became close after Bellini was sent to the Sultan after a call for painters and sculptors to the Venetians. 15th century Ottoman's were very interested in literature and art; many people made a living translating books or writing themselves, usually about royalty [See Fodor 1986]. Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, began the grand expansion of the Ottoman Empire by taking Constantinople, renaming it Istanbul, and making it the capital [See Davies 2007]. Both the relationship between Bellini and Mehmed II as well as Mehmed II's accomplishments before his death, are likely why Bellini chose to cast a medal in Mehmed II's honor.
Medals of Mehmed II are many, though only a few remain today [See Mehmed II]. Although Ottoman architecture exact origin is unknown [See Necipoglu-Kafadar 1986], Roman inspired medals with portraits of rulers were a popular trend. Greeks and Romans used a technique from Lydia (ca. 520 BC) to be able to mass produce their coins, which were decorated for aesthetic appeal just as much as they were for a purpose. Individuality was prized among the Greco-Romans, so many coins had defects. In Rome, areas had different patterns on their coins; if a certain area decided to put their own "brand" on a coin from elsewhere in the empire, they would do so on top of the previous one [See Vermeule 1957].
"Collection Object Details." British Museum. Accessed March 31, 2015. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=9462068&partId=1&people=47716&peoA=47716-3-18&page=1.
Cartwright, Mark. "Roman Coinage." Ancient History Encyclopedia. November 27, 2013. Accessed April 21, 2015. http://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Coinage/.
Davies, Siriol, and Jack Davis. "Greeks, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire." Hesperia Supplements 40 (2007): 25-31. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20066763.
Fodor, Pal. "STATE AND SOCIETY, CRISIS AND REFORM, IN 15th—17th CENTURY OTTOMAN MIRROR FOR PRINCES." Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 40 (1986): 217-40. Accessed April 5, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23657883.
"Mehmed II." Mehmed II. Accessed April 3, 2015. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O142648/mehmed-ii-medal-bellini-gentile/.
"National Gallery of Art - Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World." National Gallery of Art - Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World. Accessed March 31, 2015.
Necipoğlu-Kafadar, Gulru. "Plans and Models in 15th- and 16th-Century Ottoman Architectural Practice." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 45, no. 3 (1986): 224-43. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/990160.
Simon, Alexandru. "The weak sultan and the magnificent monarchs : Ottoman actions in the Black Sea area in 1484." Mar Nero [Il Mar Nero] 7, (2007): 217-246. Anthropology Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed April 3, 2015).
Vermeule, Cornelius. "MINTING GREEK AND ROMAN COINS." Archaeology 10, no. 2 (1957): 100-07. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41663461.