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A janissary officer by Gentile Bellini (1479)

BelliniSeatedJanissary1479The renowned Renaissance artist Gentile Bellini (1429-1507) was despatched by the Venetian Senate to Istanbul in 1479. He stayed in the new Ottoman capital for around two years and served both as a cultural ambassadour and as a court artist for Sultan Mehmet II. This drawing is one of the earliest (and realistic) depictions of a janissary. The officer is seated, wears a typical felt hat and carries a bow and a sword on his left, and a quiver on his right.

The type and the positioning of his archery weaponry shows he was cavalry, which in turn reveals the fact that this officer belonged to the 65th Battalion of the Congregation, the Sekban Companies. The Battalion contained a cavalry squadron (the only one within the Janissary Corps), in addition to 34 infantry units. This single cavalry squadron is the only exception in the otherwise infantry based organization of the Hearth.

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