The artist, probably Giovanni Bellini, relied on line to create gradations of light and shadow on this bearded man wearing a turban and holding a book. He unified the drawing with a wide range of hatching and cross-hatching, creating texture as well as tonal contrasts on his robe.
Representations of Turks became more common in Venetian art of the late 1400s. During this time the Ottoman Empire began to spread westward from its center in ancient Anatolia, now modern Turkey, threatening the independence of Venice. Ottoman armies won important victories in southeastern Europe, and the second Venetian-Ottoman war began in the 1460s, following Venice's refusal to relinquish its forts on the Aegean coast. In 1479 Gentile Bellini traveled to the court of Constantinople as official artist; on his return in 1481, he introduced Venetians to eastern artistic influences.