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What the Mayor Saw

Bartholomäus Schachman (1559–1614)
By Dr Olga Nefedova, Anna Frackowska and Hyejung Yum


The Art of Travel, Bartholomäus Schachman 1559–1614

  • Bartholomäus Schachman 1559–1614, Mayor of Gdansk.
    Portrait attributed to Anton Möller.

There was great demand among travellers and diplomats for records of life in the Ottoman world in the 16th century. One fascinating pictorial record is an album dated 1590, commissioned by Bartholomäus Schachman (1559–1614), who was a traveller and collector as well as being mayor of Gdansk. He journeyed through the Ottoman Empire between 1588 and 1589, and the resulting album is now part of the collection of the Orientalist Museum in Qatar. It was exhibited in Gdansk this summer. The exhibition, which has a sumptuous accompanying book, reopens in Doha in November (2012).

Schachman himself can be seen in a portrait attributed to Anton Möller. He holds a handkerchief in his right hand (propbably a symbol of power), a rapier in his left, and below are the Latin words “Praeconsul Gedanensis …Equitem at capitaneum Hollandiae” (Mayor of Gdansk… knight and captain of the Dutch).

Schachman was born in Danzig, as Gdansk was then, an autonomous Hanseatic League city within the kingdom of Poland. It was a vital trading post for Dutch merchants at the time, and Möller was the most famous artist active there. The Schachmans (literally “chessmen”, as reflected in their coat of arms) were from Hungary and had arrived in Danzig in the 15th century.

Bartholomäus was educated in Krakow and Danzig, Strasbourg and Siena, and travelled widely in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. His Ottoman adventure coincided with the reign of Murad III, who opened up the empire, commissioning portraits by Venetian artists and exchanging letters with Elizabeth I of England.

Olga Nefedova is the Director of the Orientalist Museum, Doha.

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