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 four-tiered helmet that Suleyman wears was the centerpiece of a group of jeweled regalia produced by Venetian goldsmiths in conjunction with German entrepreneurs to sell to the Ottoman ruler. Modeled on the three-tiered tiara of the pope, this seemingly imperial headgear was meant to signal Suleyman’s right to universal sovereignty. Suleyman’s Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, may have collaborated on its design. He also orchestrated Roman-style triumphal entries that included staggering displays of the sultan’s wealth as a challenge to Habsburg rule. The diamond- and pearl-encrusted helmet was put on public display in the Doge’s Palace in Venice in 1532; this must have been the occasion that prompted the artist to draw a careful study of the helmet for this woodcut.