The conquest of Tunis under Emperor Charles V in 1535 was a major victory over the Turks, who had captured the North African city a year earlier. The court painter Jan Vermeyen, a native of Beverwijk in the Netherlands, accompanied the Spanish troops on their journey in order to chronicle the campaign. He filled several sketchbooks with drawings, but none have survived. On the basis of the drawings, he later made etchings and designs for a series of tapestries, and those have fortunately been preserved.

Vermeyen produced not only a visual record the war, but he was also interested in Moorish customs and practices. This large etching is a portrait of Mulay Ahmad, the future king of Tunis. The battle rages in the background, where Turkish and Imperial soldiers clash before the ruins of the aqueduct of ancient Carthage. Vermeyen portrayed the prince with a noble gaze, holding a sword in his right hand. At upper right, he painted the royal coat of arms with an inscription in Arabic: ´There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet´. The exotic nature of this kind of portrait appealed to the European public. Pictures of Turkish sultans were also widely available at the time.


  • Title: Portrait of Mulay Ahmad
  • Date Created: circa 1535 - 1536
  • Theme: Portrait
  • Physical Dimensions: w377 x h464 mm
  • Original Title: Portret van Muley Ahmed
  • Engraver: Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen
  • Type: Print
  • Rights: Acquired with assistance from Stichting Lucas van Leyden 1959
  • External Link: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Medium: Etching

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