Gentile Bellini, A Turkish Woman, a drawing

Venice, Italy, around AD 1480

The Venetian government sent Gentile Bellini (about 1435-1507) as part of an embassy to the court of Sultan Mehmet II, the ruler of Constantinople; first in 1444-46, then in 1451-81. During his stay Bellini both designed a medal and also painted a portrait of the Sultan, a version of which is in the National Gallery, London.

This drawing records the details and colours of a young Turkish woman's costume. She wears a large pointed hat over a turban from which hangs a veil with a fringe. Over her body is a simple, striped dress with very long sleeves. The study is drawn in pen and brown ink from a live figure. The colours of her costume are indicated in Italian, for example, rosso (red) and oro (gold) for her turban. The words were to remind himself and other artists who might copy the drawing, of the original colours for later use in a painting. The British Museum has two drawings of Turkish figures by Gentile Bellini, the other shows a Janissary (Turkish soldier).

Gentile was one of a family of Venetian painters, which included his father Jacopo and his brother Giovanni.

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More information


A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, Italian drawings in the Depa-5 (London, The British Museum Press, 1950)

F. Ames-Lewis and J. Wright, Drawing in the Italian Renaiss (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983)

J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)


Height: 214.000 mm
Width: 176.000 mm

Museum number

PD Pp.1-20


Bequeathed by R. Payne Knight


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