This canvas depicts the Dutch Ambassador Cornelis Calkoen crossing the second court of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul to present his credentials to Sultan Ahmed III. The event took place on 14 September 1727 and was recorded by Vanmour in three pictures now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. As noted by Boppe, (loc. cit.), the present picture is an autograph version of one of these.
As the visitors entered the second court, pandemonium broke out as the janissaries (the Sultan's bodyguard) threw themselves at dishes of pilaf that were placed on the ground. This caused a huge amount of noise and was intended to impress the visitors. At the front of the composition is the Ambassador with his retinue following the masters of ceremony who are tapping the ground with their silver ceremonial maces.
During his time as Ambassador to the Ottoman court, Calkoen tried to stimulate trade by establishing new consulates, one of which was in Egypt, and by attempting to revitalize existing ones (see E. Sint Nicolas, D. Bull and G. Renda, exhibition catalogue, The Ambassador, the Sultan and the Artist - An Audience in Istanbul, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2003, pp. 1-16).