The arrival of the first permanent Ottoman Turkish ambassador to
the kingdom of Prussia in 1791 is remembered by two exotic silver
commemorative medals struck by Daniel Friedrich Loos in his private
medallic mint in Berlin.
European ambassadors and envoys were generally wealthy and
well-educated noblemen who went about in great state, accompanied by
retinues whose magnificence reflected the glory of the sovereign they represented.
Since the 1400s, war between the European powers and “the Sublime
Porte,” as the Turkish sultan was known, was more or less continuous.
After a series of significant defeats by Russia and Austria in the
fighting of 1787 to 1792, Ottoman Sultan Selim III (1789 to 1807) set
about modernizing his ramshackle realm and securing relations with
Internally, the empire was descending into chaos as the powerful
Albanian vassal Ali Pasha of Janina set up his own court and
diplomatic service after 1788. Up to this point, the Ottomans spurned
normal diplomatic contact, permitting European ambassadors in
Constantinople, but freely harassing and insulting them at will. This
was now to change as Ottoman envoys arrived in the chaos of
revolutionary France and the austere militaristic kingdom of Prussia.
The ambassador to Paris had the more scintillating role. In great
demand at public and private functions, he handled such challenges as
the entrancing women’s fashions of the day with aplomb. Introduced to
one of the belles of fashion in her gauzy see-through bodice he
exclaimed in exotically accented French, “Public beauty!”
Staid Berlin offered no such challenges, and if Ambassador Asmi
Achmet Effendi is recalled at all today, it is for his two silver medals.
Struck in 29.2 and 31.5 millimeter diameters, both bear a very
similar bust facing left in turban-wrapped tarbush, ermine collar and
court tunic within the legend ASMI ACHMET EFFENDI. Neither known medal
bears an artist’s signature.
The medal illustrated is 29.2 millimeters in diameter. The reverse
bears an eight-line German inscription, ZUM / ANDENCKEN/ BEY SEINER /
ANWESENHEIT / ALS GESANDTER / ZU BERLIN / IM FEBRUAR / 1791, “In
Remembrance of his Presence as Envoy to Berlin 1791.”
The other known medal is inscribed “Monument (Remembrance) of the
Turkish Ambassador to Berlin in February 1791.” Neither medal is a
After suffering defeats in Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and facing
mounting opposition to his attempts at modernization, Selim III was
overthrown in 1807 by Janissary troops and his empire continued its
slide into oblivion.
David T. Alexander is a Senior Numismatist and researcher for
Heritage Auctions, at email@example.com. He is author of
American Art Medals, 1909-1995.