Carpaccio, detail from

THE RED PARROT AND THE RUBIES
1485

11 July 1485

Magnifice et generose domine.
Hieri scrissi a Vostra Magnificenza come l'ambasciator del soldano era andato alla corte, e le cosse sequite, e mandai la lettera al detto nostro console la quale credo l'averà ben recata. Questa matina doveva andare l'ambasciatore d'India, e io desiderava di riposare e aveva anche tolto un poco de medicina, e temporeggiando cosi sul mio stramazzo sentii venire un chiaus el qual me domandò da parte da questi signori sultani che io andasse a questa solennità; e così mi vestii e andai alla Porta accompagnato da quel medesimo chiaus, e presentandomi davanti il loro pavione fui chiamato e introdotto sotto, e sentai in quel scagno preparatomi secondo usanza, e dietro de me per tre o quattro passi fora del pavione erano sentati tre di quei signori ungheri, e dietro di loro due servitori, e avevano del sole quanto volevano. Dopo buon pezzo venne l'ambasciatore indiano, il quale fu accettato honoratamente e sentò sotto Daut in mezzo delli altri signori; e averte le casse delli presenti. Li sultani hanno voluto vedere el pugnal e la cima che venivano presentate al signore, e portate avanti di loro, mi chiamarono che anch'io andasse a vedere, e sentando avanti di loro, me fu messo in mano, et era la vagina tutto d'oro, e la guardia di fora di rubini, cioè in mezzo vi erano 22 grossi rubini, e dalle bande rubinetti piccolo, ed in alcuni luoghi qualche turchese, e nella cima della vaina una perla grossa; e mentre vedevo et esaminavo detto pugnale furono chiamati e andorno dal signore. E la corte e tutto quel campo erano pieni d'uomini che portavano suoi presenti e sono 2600 lizari e porcellane, code di cavalli, lanze di canna, uno bellissimo papagallo rosso ed altre gentilezze indiane, e parve miracolo a vedere in un tratto tanti presenti. E li signori sultani sentando così e vendendo me mandarono a dire, che tenissi bene a mente per fare e simile anca me verso il signore. Et io risposi che valeva più al loro signore il buon amore dei miei signori, che non valeva tutte le cose del mondo. E così se voltarono da mi tutti insieme, e me fecero atto che avevo risposto molto bene. Fu portato il desinare e avanti de mi solo fu portate diversi bandigioni. E alli ongheri fu dato di fuora, e mangiando quei signori, me invitarono che mangiassi, ed io lor facevo dire, che anco volevo bevere; e mangiammo molto bene e appetito e allegramente, e prometto alla Magnificenza Vostra che tra quelle bandigioni vi era una minestra con sugo de limone che mi ha saputo molto buona, e di questa sola ho desinato. E dicto pasto mi fu portato in piatti di porcellana, la vivanda era buona, ma mi averia piuttosto bevuto una tazza di vino. Partito poi l'ambasciatore indiano anch'io tolsi licensa, e me ne venni al mio allogiamento. Ed in tutto ciò è stato presente Luco Sofrana, e potrà ragionarle distintamente. Ne me accade altro che racommandarmi alla Magnificenza Vostra.

11 July 1485

Magnificent and Generous Lord:
Yesterday I wrote Your Magnificence how the Ambassador of the Sultan* had gone to the court, and what happened. I sent the letter to our Consul who I believe will have it well brought. This morning the Indian ambassador should go, and I was wanting to rest and had also taken a little medicine, and so delaying on my bed I heard a chiaus** coming who asked on behalf of the high-ranking officials that I go to the ceremony, and so I dressed and went to the Porte accompanied by the same chiaus. Presenting myself before their pavilion, I was called and brought inside, and sat on the stool prepared for me as usual. Behind me, three or four paces outside the pavilion three of the Hungarian lords were sitting, and behind them two servants, and they had as much sun as they wanted.

After a good while, the Indian Ambassador came. He was received with honors and sat beside Daut Pasha in the middle of the other officials and opened the chests of presents. The officials had wanted to see the dagger and pommel that that they brought and presented to the Sultan, and brought before them, they called me so that I could also go see it, and sitting in front of them, it was put in my hand, and the sheath was all of gold, and the outer guard of rubies, that is on the half there were 22 large rubies, and little rubies on the band, and in some places several turquoises, and on the top of of the hilt a large pearl.*** While I looked at and examined the dagger they were called and went in to the Sultan.

The court and all the field were full of men who brought his presents and there were 2600 red fabrics and porcelain, horse tails, cane lances, a most beautiful red parrot, and other Indian luxuries, and it seemed there a miracle to see so many presents at one time.

The high-ranking officials sitting so and seeing me, sent to say that they would hold it well in mind to do and also me towards the Sultan. I responded that more important than their Sultan was the respect of my masters, which not everything in the world could equal. So they turned toward me all together and made me a sign that I had answered very well. The meal was brought and before me alone were brought diverse dishes of a banquet. It was taken outside to the Hungarians, and the officials eating invited me to eat with them, and I did what they said, because I wanted also to drink. We ate extremely well, with appetite and pleasure, and I promise Your Magnificence that among these bandigioni there was a dish with a lemon sauce that tasted exceptionally good, and for this alone I ate. The said food was brought to me in porcelain plates, the eating was good, but I would have rather have drunk a cup of wine.

Then the Indian ambassador and I took permission to leave, and I came to my lodging. Luco Sofrana has been present for all this, and he can relate it in detail. Nothing else occurs to me other than to commend myself to Your Magnificence.

This letter was written by Giovanni Dario from the hunting camp of the Ottoman Sultan, Beyazid, outside Adrianople. The text is taken from Guglielmo Berchet, La Repubblica di Venezia e la Persia (Turin, 1865) 152-153, who states it was written from Persia. M. F. Tiepolo (2002) pp. 301-302, demonstrates this identification comes from copyists' errors and provides documentary evidence that Dario was still based at Adrianople. I have taken the liberty of changing some of the punctuation. Pierre MacKay was of great assistance.

* Sultan - Qayt Beyh al Zakiri, 1468-1496, Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.
** A low-ranking officer; from T çavuş.
***
A similar dagger from The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. ed. Esin Atıl (New York, 1987) 159.


The Sultan's camp (here, Suleiman the Magnificent) showing the Porte, or gate and pavilion before the Sultan's quarters that Dario mentions ("e così mi vestii e andai alla Porta").
From a manuscript in the Topkapi Museum in The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. ed. Esin Atıl (New York, 1987) 92-93.

BACK