Of the vast collection of the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C. , Portrait of a Painter has always been my favorite work. Yet, its origin and history remain a mystery. The artist is unknown, the date only an estimate–in the late 15th century—and the place of creation possibly Istanbul, then ruled by Ottoman ruler Mehmed II. Plus this small treasure of watercolor and gold is perhaps a copy of A Seated Scribe done by either Italian painters Gentile Bellini or Constanzo da Ferrara, once employed at the court of the sultan who had an interest in Western art. (See link at the end of the blog for image.)
So why do I prefer Portrait of a Painter to the museum’s elegant Japanese folding screens, or timeless Buddhist statues, or even its precious pieces of jade? I wish I could explain. Can you?
To view A Seated Scribe, click: