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The AC Digs Into: Lives and Afterlives of an Iconic Image

April 29, 2021

In 1479, the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini arrived at the Ottoman court in Istanbul, where he produced his celebrated portrait of Sultan Mehmed II. An important moment of cultural diplomacy, this was the first of many intriguing episodes in the picture’s history.

In her book Gentile Bellini’s Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II: Lives and Afterlives of an Iconic Image, author Elizabeth Rodini traces Gentile’s portrait from Mehmed’s court, to the Venetian lagoon, to the railway stations of war-torn Europe, to the walls of London’s National Gallery, exploring its life as a painting and its afterlife as a famous, often puzzling image.

Join AC Co-Founder Peter Herdrich for a lively conversation with Dr. Rodini on this painting’s incredible journey through time. Through their discussion of the painting and the book, they examine topics including:

  • The importance of cultural diplomacy
  • Restoration vs. Conservation
  • The power of provenance
  • Emerging concepts of national patrimony
  • The influence and agency of cultural heritage, art, and antiquities

Elizabeth Rodini is the Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome, Italy. Previously, she founded the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University, where she was a Teaching Professor in the History of Art.

To learn more, read Dr. Rodini’s Smarthistory Article on the Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II.

To buy the book, visit