Painted panel of a cassone called the ’Conquest of Trebizond’

Jul 2013

I was interested to read that the painted panel of a cassone called the ’Conquest of Trebizond’ does not represent an imagined final battle between Ottomans on the left and Trebizondians on the right (there was no battle before the capture of Trebizond), but, instead it is a battle between Ottomans on the left (near the image of Constantinople) and Timurids or Turkmen on the right (near Trebizond).

None of the Ottomans seem to wear the ak börk sleeve cap typical of Janissaries, see a woodcut of The Battle of Zonchio (Navarino), 1499 and many latter illustrations of Ottomans, but there is also the kuka worn by senior janissary officers and solaks:

Çeverbaşı. Colonel of the Janissaries. Distinctive high white head-dress (kuka) with gold brim and very large plume (süpürge sorguçlu) at top and a smaller plume in a holder.

Solak. Wears the distinctive high white head-dress (kuka) with gold brim and very large fan-shaped plume (süpürge sorguçlu). Two smaller plumes in a holder.
From Hans Sloan's Album, "The Habits of the Grand Signor's Court", SL.5258, Turkey, c.1620

A Turkish Janissary, c. 1480, by Gentile Bellini gives a 15th century European impression of the kuka. See also an Ottoman painting in Khusrau and Shirin, A.H. 904, (1498–99AD) where one rider has a tall white hat with gold rim.

On the cassone a mounted figure & infantryman to left of centre both have white caps that fold over at the top. Although one hat is gold, both hats of two warriors on the far left seem to have a slight folding over of the tip of their hats. A mounted figure on the left wears a pointed white cap with plume.

The gold coloured hats may be based on Peiks. In a painting of the siege of Rhodes Peiks marching before the Sultan wear a thimble-shaped tall cap called a külâh-i peyk, Solaks are beside the Sultan. The külâh-i peyk was often made of brass.

A detail of the left of the ’Conquest of Trebizond’ Cassone.
A detail of the centre of the ’Conquest of Trebizond’ Cassone.
A detail of the right of the ’Conquest of Trebizond’ Cassone.

A painted panel of a cassone called the ’Conquest of Trebizond’

15th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Jan 2013
It's kinda sad since the empire of trebizond is the last successor of the Eastern roman empire, as the army itself continuation of the roman army itself.
Jan 2012
This uniform reconstruction that searched to web, not uploadede by me, so open it please to some other window :

The central Byzantine figure, described as :

'...Later Byzantine military costume ... This reconstruction is based on Balkan wall paintings and a painted Italian chest showing Turks and Byzantines, almost certainly based on scetches brought back by itinerant Italian artists. Among several distinctive features are a shield of Italo-Balkan form, a sword of Byzantine type and a flanged mace of Eastern European form.
The tall yellow felt hat was a style common on both sides of the late Byzantine - muslim frontier...'', David Nicolle, page 51, Osprey, Elite series 58, The Janissaries.

'... By the 15th century the remnnants of the Byzantine empire were too poor to hire many mercernaries.....
.....The soldiers who accompanied Emperor John VIII to Italy in 1437 included two distinctive types of cavalry : armoured stradioti, who would propably have rated as light cavalry in westen Europe, and even more lighty equipped gianitzaroi....'', David Nicolle, page 33, Osprey, Campaign 78, Constantinople 1453.

The original source found to those, this is the eyewitnesses of the events of the Council of Florence in 1439, Sylvester Syropulus. [ame=]Sylvester Syropulus - Vicipaedia[/ame]

Between 1459 and 1461, Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1421 – 1497) who was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence painted what may be considered his most important work: his frescoes of the Magi in the Magi Chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem, and in the tribune, a composition of Angels in Paradise. Gozzoli incorporated portraits of the Medici family into his fresco The Journey of the Magi, as also the portrait of John VIII Palaiologos, who at 1437 - 39 made the Union of orthodox with the catholic church, which was ratified at the Council of Florence in 1439 which John attended with 700 followers including armoured stradioti and the light equipped gianitzaroi.
Those oriental costume styles and people mixed with the Italian western ones, as the Union message of the Council of Florence was, and there you can see among other , skull caps, as those appear to the Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso, which the Cassone's front panel depicting the Conquest of Trebizond.

Red skull cap at ultimate left position [Procession of the Magi. Benozzo Gozzoli] (and to the blue head gear in front of him)

also the green skull cap to top right detail from the same wall painting


'... The uniforms of these Trapezuntine warriors from a 15th century tomb in Trebizond's Hagia Sofia clearly demonstrates the Turkish influence prevelent among the local Byzantine and Laz populations. The mounted figures wear white hats, yellow boots, and red coats (one with a white pattern), while the other figure below, wears a white coat and a yellow tunic...', Ian Heath, page 44,45, osprey, Byzantine Armies AD 1118-1461 (Men-at-Arms).

'... The fall of Trebizond, from painted Florentine 'Cassone' of 1462. The Byzantine defenders of the city armed with bows, curved sabers and lances stand out only from the trimmed with feathers hat wearing, as opposed to the turban of the Ottomans. , Ian Heath, page 47, osprey, Byzantine Armies AD 1118-1461 (Men-at-Arms).

So, what is logic is, Ottoman muslims appearing with turbans and byzantines with skull caps.


Long oval high hats at the top left corner, was in Byzantine use[among others], to this picture emperor John_VI_Kantakouzenos John_VI_Kantakouzenos presiding over a synod.


Now i will mention some about the conquest of Trebizond, from the Cassone with painted front panel depicting the Conquest of Trebizond > ''... However, as has been pointed out by Paribeni, Trebizond was taken by Mehmed II without a battle...''>
this is no true, '... The Siege of Trebizond was the successful siege of the city of Trebizond, capital of the Empire of Trebizond, by the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II. Mehmed led an army comprising 60,000 cavalry and 80,000 infantry from Brusa in June 1461, first neutralized the allies of Trebizond -- he intimidated the Emir of Sinope into surrendering his domain and person, captured an outpost of Uzun Hassan which discouraged the latter from intervening -- then marched on the city. The Sultan's navy had been blocking the port of the city from resupply for a month before emperor David of Trebizond heeded the advice of logothete George Amiroutzes and surrendered the city on 15 August 1461. ..''
So there have been warfare and conflict between them ᾿...for a month...''

Then afterwards, refer that a a careful examination to Apolonios work [Conquest_of_Trebizond], with the aid of infrared light in 1980 revealed an inscription identifying him as TANVRLANA, in which it translates as Tamerlane , and gives a view that the battle is between Ottoman and Timurids, or Ottoman and Turkmen of Uzun Hasan.

But none of those battles between those happened to Trebizond.

The byzantine officer excisted in front of the sultan, at the right part of the picture does not explain any of the theories of between turkmen ottomans, or ottomans timurid battles.
There is no Uzun Hasan prisoner [excisted ever] or Uzun Hasan/new Tamerlane winner [on right of painting], or any Beyezid prisoner to this painting, if there is Uzun Hasan winner then how we have conquest of Trebizond from Ottomans, if we have Uzun Hasan looser then how can be 'described' as Tamerlane 's heir . If there is Beyezid prisoner, again this does not has connection with the conquest of Constantinople at the left, Scutari on center and Trebizond on right.

The byzantine officer is probably, the Byzantine emperor of Trebizond, or the logothete George Amiroutzes who want stop the killing between and so surender the city.

Constantinople , Scutari and Trebizond were Roman/byzantine towns who conquered by muslim [turban] Ottomans, and both excisted to the paint.


So, under my opinion there is a possibility that what we see are 2 different battles.The down side is possible be between Uzun Hasn's Turkmens, who is defeated by Ottomans, and the up one the Trebizonds first month's battles, between Byzantines and Ottomans, and finally the surrender of Trebizond, and not as to the web page The Metropolitan Museum of Art, refer at : Attributed to workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso | Cassone with painted front panel depicting the Conquest of Trebizond | Italian, Florence | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

If it is so, then [supposedly that the painter is accurate] the similarities between the uniforms of byzantines of Trebizond and Turkmen confirm Ian Heath's that military uniforms of byzantines of Trebizond '... demonstrates ... Turkish influence prevelent among the local Byzantine and Laz populations. ...'.

If it is only one battle, then this is dedicated to Trebizond and again these soldiers represent Byzantines of Trebizond against muslim turban Ottomans.
To both cases the uniforms give a taste of latest uniforms of byzantines of Trebizond, but not exclusively of course, byzantine Alexander's romance give a variety of styles. Category:Byzantine Alexander Romance, Venice - Wikimedia Commons

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Jul 2013
Hi Anax,

1) David Nicolle, in Osprey, Elite series 58, The Janissaries 1998 Plate A2 uses the "Conquest of Trebizond" as (probably the main) source. He is relying on other Historians for the identification of "Turks and Byzantines". His work cannot be used as evidence that they are "Turks and Byzantines" as this would be circular logic. As he wrote in 1998, Paribeni 2001, Paribeni 2002, and Lurati 2005, were not available to him.

2) I would not call them "skull caps" but the red and green tall pointed caps folded over at the top are similar to some of the white caps on the cassone, but who do they represent? You would expect some easterners in the Procession of the Magi, but there are also those in Italian costume and the most eastern looking are those with beards. A similar hat in Breydenbach's Peregrinationes in Terram Sanctam, 1486
is under a label – “Genetzer” (perhaps Janissary).
I would expect the Byzantine soldiers, if represented in the Procession of the Magi, to include those around the figure usually identified as John VIII Palaiologos (see the 2nd frame of the image above). Is this what Byzantine soldiers looked like when in Italy?

3) The fresco from Trebizond's Hagia Sofia is probably the best evidence of the appearance of Trebizond's soldiers. I would like to see a photo. Their hats are only similar to the one figure on the right of the fresco.

4) Ian Heath, Byzantine Armies 1118-1461 AD (Men-at-Arms) Osprey, 1995 Is also relying on the identification by others and wrote in 1995.

So, what is logic is, Ottoman muslims appearing with turbans and byzantines with skull caps.
The simplest assumption is that the Trebizondians would be on the right of the cassone, near the city labelled 'Trebizond' and that the Ottomans would be on the left near Constantinople. It is wishful thinking that the Trebizondians are on the left, just because these do not wear turbans (ignoring that the main character is in a turban).

The only very Greek looking figure being on the right is a puzzle, but so is the turbaned figure on the left. There is an explanation for an Ottoman sultan being in a turban surrounded by his men not in turbans - that his men are painted by a person whose main information is about those who are usually seen near the Sultan: Peyks, Solaks and senior Janissary officers.

6) The long oval high hats, at the top left corner of the picture of emperor John VI Kantakouzenos presiding over a synod, are not pointed like those on the cassone and they are not worn by soldiers. They resemble more the hat of Folio17v. A man who recites prayers. Dressed in a round brown hat (sikke). (Peter Mundy's Album, "A briefe relation of the Turckes, their kings, Emperors, or Grandsigneurs, their conquests, religion, customes, habbits, etc" Istanbul 1618). This album also has a wide variety of other hats.

7) There was a period of war and a siege but no battle is mentioned as having taken place.

But none of those battles between those happened to Trebizond.
No battles may have been fought at or near Trebizond, but this does not help to identify either side on the cassone.

9) For what was in the painter's mind, that he included Trebizond in his painting, I defer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York's interpretation.

15th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Jan 2012
1.I am not a supporter of David Nicolle, in general the oposite, though I found his aproach to this specific subject it may compatible with the painting.[unless there is an evidence different found, as may you mentioned at the end].

2.The Byzantine soldiers, in the Procession of the Magi, around the figure usually identified as John VIII Palaiologos are bodyguards, if so , i never support that those should wear or not those cap hats.We have an earlier describing of Manuel Palaiologos proclamation in Constantinople with 12 Varangians in full armour, but the event is different, as also the costumes for any ceremny and purpose.
To Italy with the Roman/Byzantine emperor traveled 700 followers, among them excisted stradioti and light equiped yanitzari.
Most of soldiers after the long time had no money, even sell their equipment for buying food. So that's the reason of the variety of uniforms and the replaced ones around John VIII Palaiologos.
The specific caps, to the who do they represent question, is ofcorse not Italians, but of some of the Roman/Byzantines of the Union Council at 1439 or anyone bought this eqquipment from the Byzantine soldiers.

3. The fresco from Trebizond's Hagia Sofia is a best evidence of appearance of some of Trebizond's soldiers, not all. Alexander's romance giving a variety, Byzantines also wear turbans from far past, but without the zarkula kind of Ottomans [turban and a red small cap/hat at center].

4. I respect Ian Heath's view, I can not comment to this.


As Ian Heath mention'... The uniforms of these Trapezuntine warriors from a 15th century tomb in Trebizond's Hagia Sofia clearly demonstrates the Turkish influence prevelent among the local Byzantine and Laz populations. The mounted figures wear white hats, yellow boots, and red coats (one with a white pattern), while the other figure below, wears a white coat and a yellow tunic...', Ian Heath, page 44,45, osprey, Byzantine Armies AD 1118-1461 (Men-at-Arms).

So according this we indeed know some of the colors of the uniforms.
Now go to center image at top and see a soldier wearing red dress and having the greek byzantine hat.
[it's the second one from those i call 'byzantines', though it does not appear very clear> have a look please]

The hat is in the form of :

That shows to me that the group at the top center of the casone are Byzantines with their variety hat styles.


5. The refer is about the position of Trebizondians to the map is if this follows an artistic view that follows some rules. Usually greek painting set the Greeks to the left and barbarians to the right. But does the painter follows this rule? i can not clear answer, but that seems to my view, as the turbans army represent the winner [ottoman] sultan to the right.
If there 2 kind of battles to this picture that explain the Tamerlane refer, this view not ignoring any character in turban.
To this painting Ottoman sultan when sitting is surrounded from men with turbans, instead the prisoners wear hats not turbans.

6. That is true for the specific image of John VI Kantakouzenos presiding over a synod, but must refer that Pseudo Codinus describing the official uniforms of late Romans/Byantines [middle 14tg century] gives more that not identified. For example what is the capasion hat that wear the Tsacones bodyguards, is it a cap like this on this picture? we do not know.
My preservation came to show just, the existence of white oval caps, in Byzantine use. (off topic : to that picture also we can not see if the officials to the right part of the image have military duties, we suspect this because one of them holds the imperial sword, but we can not generalise for those on left having the oval hats. Again this picture gives more questions than answers.But is better to mention it than to ignore it.)

7. As described my view the painting, possible, split to 2 [or more] stories, the upper battles happening around Trebizond, between the little Trabezund army and the army of navy of sultan at the first month, and the down between Ottomans and Uzun Hasan's Turkmen. If we supposed that to all painting is a battle between sultan, and the down between Ottomans and Uzun Hasan's Turkmen, then Uzun Hasan's Turkmen should be on the right part of the painting , not to the left, that's the reason that i personally believe that the painting may follows the rules of the greek painting.

8. To Constantinople siege, byzantines also raid against the Ottoman outside of the walls at first, but when all the Ottoman army came decide , not to spread to danger their men, as for 1 byzantine killed 10 ottomans, and the defenders were few, they will loose afterwards their defenders for guarding the walls. We can not aspect for 1 month the Trebizond's not conflict with the navy's army of sultan, or the navy's army of sultan do no conflict.

9. I respect your opinion about.

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Jul 2013
1 & 4. Historians like D. Nicolle and I. Heath do not annalyze individual artifacts to determine their origin etc. They rely on the work of others and try to fit them into a bigger picture. David Nicolle is not making a decision that the cassone shows Byzantines when he and the artist use it as a source for plate A2, so there is nothing to agree or disagree with. For another example of how they rely on others see The Rome or David Casket. Where Nicole does express an opinion is on p4, ELI - 058 - The Janissaries Osprey, 1995: "Byzantine infantry on an Italian painted chest of the mid-15th century, showing 'The Ottoman conquest of Trabzon'. Their appearance is different to that in archaic Byzantine art of the period, but is probably an accurate reflection of late Byzantine costume and weapons. The similarity between their tall hats and those worn by early Ottoman infantry is striking." What would he say now after the more recent annalysis of the cassone?

2. If this is the case then there is no evidence that any caps in the 'Procession of the Magi' are Byzantine. The pointed caps could have come from anywhere.

3. The 14th century 'Romance of Alexander' does not have any Trebizondian characters. There are Ancient Macedonian, Greek & Persian etc. characters who are portrayed either as 14th century Byzantines of Constantinople or of their neighbours to the east. There is nothing that can be said to be specificly the costume of Trebizond. The fresco from Trebizond's Hagia Sofia is probably the best evidence of the appearance of Trebizond's soldiers because it was made in Trebizond for a client in Trebizond. It may be the only evidence.

4. One soldier in red & one in red with a white pattern does not make a uniform. 'Uniform' has a specific meaning. If a red coat was the uniform then a unit should all be wearing red, if only one is in red as on the cassone then this lack of uniformity would be evidence of these not being a Trebizond unit.
The hat of the figure in red may have a peak at the front, but it would be behind the spear rather than in front. There is also a hint of the rim of the cap continuing around the front. This figure is too small to be sure it is not a smear or damage. The figure two behind him has an interesting cap with a large turn-up.

5.You would have to show that an Italian, painting for an Italian customer, followed rules before you could make anything of this, e.g. what rules are being followed on another cassone The Battle of Anghiari - unknown Florentine master of the 1460s
I agree there would be no problem with an Ottoman sultan on the right, sitting, surrounded by men with turbans, with the prisoners wearing hats not turbans, but why would his opponent be wearing a turban?

6. ["preservation" is not the correct English word, from this and your previous usage, the word is 'post'.]

7. There are other 15th century paintings where more than one scene is included e.g. The St. Ladislaus Legend in churches of greater Hungary. These usually have scenes of the same story and include characters (often the same characters) or important elements in each scene to tell a part of the story. In the foreground battle the fighting is still raging but the presentation of kneeling figures show us who won. In the background combat there are no 'characters' and no indication of who won. If it is Trebizondians on the left, why are they dressed in mostly the same costume as those in the foreground battle?

8. Do you have an account of a raid or is this supposition? If the background combat was of a sortie by Trebizondians wouldn't they be coming from Trebizond?
I could accept that for 1 month the Trebizondians stayed within their walls.

10. If there was no preconception of what costume was worn in Trebizond, and if it were a battle between Ottomans and Trebizond on the cassone, then the cassone would show that the turban was worn by soldiers of Trebizond.

15th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
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Jan 2012
1 & 4. That's a good question for D. Nicolle and I. Heath, as also for us all.

2. The 'Procession of the Magi' made having as subject the union council and the Medici host to Byzantine emperor and his followers, that union described with the union of mixed of people/costumes, and emphasized it's character from the presence=appearance of Roman/byzantine emperor Ioanes Palaiologos as also the Medici family to the same painting. Anyone can take his view and results if the pointed caps could have come from anywhere, to this specific painting, or of the followers of the emperor that appeears to this picture.

3. The 14th century 'Romance of Alexander' made for an emperor of Byzantine Trebizond in the fourteenth century, who was most probably Alexios III (1349-1390), and in such manuscripts appear classic characters and stories with 'modern' = of their time, costumes and equipment. I have it fortunately, and the introduction and analysis of it. The fresco from Trebizond's Hagia Sofia is a best evidence of the appearance of Trebizond's soldiers, though not all. It does not give any guards armour or all the kind of costumes.

4. My refer is for the hat, the reason i refer also the red color costume is for understanding anyone for whom soldier to the painting I refer, so to find it ease, not a uniform comparing.

5. i never analyse if Sultan's oponent [uzun hasan/timurid/'tamerlane' refer on painting] would be wearing a turban, or not, my research has to concentrate to the Tabzon's army. If [some of ]Trabzon defenders have similar costumes with the rest of the non turban of the picture, if the painter is accurate, and some are similar to the ones of the 'Procession of the Magi' i mentioned.

6. thanks correcting my english.

7. Aspecting that the painter is accurate, then he shows the similarity of the costumes between the Trabezonds and the nearby Turkmen states, a view that already I. Heath mentioned for the fresco from Trebizond's, as also we can see it to some of 'Romance of Alexander' soldiers costumes. There some hats that becoming from Turkish forms and some that are [unknown becoming, so are] for reserach.

8. Do you have an account of a foreign [not ottoman] raid or is this supposition? Do you think that down of the walls of Trebizond, not Trebizond soldiers are fighting Ottomans, because that's for sure we know that did not happen. We have a conflict between Ottomans and Trebizond's soldiers.

'.... (1)And the rulers of the [sultan's] fleet sailed in Trabzon, approached the harbors and making landings, conclude war with Trebizonds recorded exits front of the city. put them in escape and then squeeze them with violence and ruled in the city. (2)Having reached throughout the outside region and the street leading to the city and having surrounded the Trabzon with the army on land and ships at sea, the besieging guarding strictly not pass something from the inside out or something from outside to inside .(3) Well, spent 28 days that the siege, during raids happened, of some of the inhabitants of the city against to the outside ones. In these raids those[=The Trapezundians] are not inferior no vis the enemy, however [they were] few [in number], accept onslaught by many, they pushed back again and closed within the city...', History of Michael Critovulos, chapter 4, paragrapf 7 [ame=]Michael Critobulus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

10. There is no way Trebizond's soldiers wear the specific kind of turban, this is Ottoman zarcula, turban with a cap at the center, not the kind of Byzantines use.

So down of the walls of Trabzon we have conflicts between Byzantines and Ottomans. The group that does not wear [zarcula] turbans are the Trebizond's soldiers, and the hat of one of them if even restore it, seems that is the greek byzantine one.

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