Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent Wearing the Jewel-Studded Helmet

Artist: Anonymous, Italian, Venetian, 16th century

Date: ca. 1540–50

Medium: Woodcut

Dimensions: Sheet: 35 1/16 × 20 3/16 in. (89 × 51.3 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1942

Accession Number: 42.41.1


The magnificent head ornament depicted in this print, notable for its fine workmanship and extraordinary collection of diamonds, pearls, and other precious gems, was the work of Venetian goldsmiths. Together with Venetian merchants active in Istanbul, they sold it to the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent for 116,000 ducats. With its four crowns (one more than the pope wore) and pseudo-Roman plume (like that worn by Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor), this extravagant helmet aimed unabashedly to flatter the sultan. Once in his possession, Süleyman used it to impress European dignitaries, but ironically he probably never wore it himself, incompatible as it would have been with his Ottoman turban. He is more likely to have displayed it upon a pillow or had an imperial page wear it instead.