Abdülmecid Efendi, 1868-1944

Self-Portrait, c. 1945

Abdülmecid, the son of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), 37th head of the Ottoman Imperial House and the last Ottoman Caliph. When his cousin Vahideddin ascended the throne as Mehmed VI in 1918, Abdülmecid also moved into Dolmabahçe Sarayı as the heir apparent. In recognition of his progressive outlook and his support for the Nationalist cause during the War of Independence, he was unanimously elected caliph by the Grand National Assembly in 1922.

Abdülmecid grew up in the court of his father Sultan Abdülaziz, where the Westernization movement was flourishing, and he remained there after his father’s death. In addition to painting, he took an interest in music, literature, and calligraphy. He was also a patron of the arts and began an art collection at the court. Abdülmecid received instruction in art from some of the leading masters of the day such as Osman Hamdi and Salvatore Valerie. Although portraits make up the greater part of his work, he also produced landscapes including timeless and quite romanticized depictions of İstanbul.

“Self-Portrait” brings together Abdülmecid’s artistic side and his statesmanship, the latter of which he was forced to abandon years before. While the dynasty emblems he wears point to his blood ties with the Empire, the fact that he was the person to have painted the portrait brings to mind that there was a side to him which wished to record the longing left by this loss.




Oil on canvas

Credit Line

Oya – Bülent Eczacıbaşı Collection

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art / Long term loan