Visual Arts and Communication of Power

Ivana Prijatelj Pavičić

History and Ideology in the Works of Horatio Fortezza, Goldsmith and Engraver from Šibenik

Summary of the paper published in: Beyond the Adriatic Sea. A Plurality of Identities and Floating Borders in Visual Culture, ed. Saša Brajović, Novi Sad, 2015, 78–106

The paper analyses the phenomenon of Renaissance intercultural (Illyrism and Henetism) and cross-media (text – engraving) transfers of the conception of illustrious men from classical antiquity (emperors, historians and heroes), which are reflected in the iconography of richly decorated brass ewers and washbasins made by famous goldsmith and engraver from Šibenik, Horatio Fortezza (Šibenik, around 1530–1596). Fortezza’s engraved brass vessels are kept in Museo di Bargello in Florence, Museo Correr in Venice, the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the City Museum of Šibenik.

Car Rudolf II.Fortezza's commissioners were members of prominent Venetian patrician families: the Grimani, Dolfin, Cicogna, Trevisan and Querini family. It is assumed that they held high military and administrative functions in Venetian Dalmatia, which was at the time perceived as part of ancient Roman province of Illyricum, between 1555 and 1575.

Since in Fortezza’s time – in the context of Henetistic ideology and Venetian imperialism – the Venetian Republic insisted on redesigning the Serenissima as altera Roma, Venetian capitani del mar, who participated in the war against the Ottoman Empire, were compared in contemporary military and maritime treatises with famous ancient Greek, Carthaginian and Roman military leaders  and heroes.

The paper deals with the possible influence that one of the most famous of such treaties, Della milizia Marittima, written by Cristoforo Canal from 1553 to 1554, had on the iconography of Fortezza's ewers and washbasins.

The engraved depictions of ancient heroes and their military triumphs testify to the contemporary imperial constructions of Fortezza’s commissioners, their self-perception and the current topical perception of Illyrian identity. The strongest expression of those tendencies can be seen on three engravings from the so-called "Kosovo cycle" engraved  on a basin kept in Šibenik. Shown in the middle of the basin, the Grimani family coat of arms is surrounded by three themes (duke Lazar drinks with Miloš Obilić, Miloš kills Murat, the death of Miloš) depicted within luxurious scrollwork, which point out to the importance of the myth and history of waging war against the Ottomans on the "Illyricum" territory. Accentuating the military courage (virtus militaris) of Miloš Obilić, a Christian hero (miles christianus) with Slavic origin and connecting it with heroes and illustrious men of Roman antiquity points out to the imperial instrumentalisation of Slavism (Illyrism) in the wars of Serenissima against the Ottoman enemy, in which The Venetian Republic is stylized as  the heiress to the Roman power and glory on the Dalmatian coast and territory of the so-called Illyricum.

Visual material used in the study