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Attributed to French School, 17th century

Rosa, Consort of Suleiman, Emperor of the Turks c. 1600-70

Oil on canvas | 49.3 x 36.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 406152

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  • This is one of six portraits first recorded in Kensington Palace in 1818 (RCIN 403916, 404349, 406141, 406152, 406160 & 406782), all inscribed in French with the sitter’s identity in gold capitals (seeming to run behind the head) and apparently in the same script. The works are not of identical dimensions and are of very different quality, nor do their frames match. It would seem that they were brought together by an antiquarian collector (who was presumably French). They probably joined the Royal Collection through Queen Caroline, who also acquired a set of old English Kings and their relations (RCINs 402708, 402740, 403045, 404196, 404740, 404743-5, 404748-9). The group divides into two sets of three: one dealing with the early Bourbon court (RCIN 403916, 404349, 406141) and one (to which this portrait belongs) bringing together Queens from history and from round the world (RCIN 406152, 406160 & 406782). Two of these were in Queen Caroline’s Dressing Room at Kensington Palace in 1818 (RCIN 406160 & 406782) and the other in the Great Drawing Room. Two of the portraits (this & 406160) are of the same size and apparently by the same hand.

    Hürrem Sultan (1502-1558) was the favourite concubine and later the chief consort and legal wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. It is believed that she was of Russian, Ukrainian or Polish origin, and that she was captured by marauders and sold as a slave to the Ottoman court in the Crimea in the 1510s, when Suleiman was serving there as governor. As was customary with the Sultan’s concubines, Hürrem was taught proper court etiquette, educated, and given a Turkish name, Hürrem, meaning 'the smiling and endearing one'. Her intelligence and composure captivated Suleiman, and she soon became his confidante.

    Suleiman married Hürrem, becoming the only sultan (with the exception of a 19th-century ruler) to officially take a wife. Europeans called her Roxelane, meaning the Russian, or La Rosa, the red one, presumably owing to the colour of her hair. In this portrait, which is inscribed " ROSSA FEMME DE SOLIMAN EMPEREUR DES TURCS " tendrils of her russet hair fall beneath an elaborate headdress. She wears a jewelled crown surmounted with white linen, which hangs down her back. A peacock feather adorns the front. Her rich red dress covered with a white linen stomacher and blue bodice have gold-jewelled facings with a ruby brooch at her breast.

    Provenance

    First recorded in the Royal Collection at Kensington Palace in 1818.

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    49.3 x 36.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    63.3 x 50.9 x 7.6 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Rosa, consort of Suleiman (the Magnificent?), Emperor of the Turks, traditionally entitled

    "La Belle Esclavonne"