CHRIEGER, Christophoro, after a drawing by Tiziano VECELLIO, known as TITIAN. La Gloriosa Vittoria [Representation of the Battle of Lepanto]. Venice: 1572
Uncolored woodcut, 2 sheets joined (First Edition). Printed on paper with watermark. Sheet size: 19" x 29"
This swirling, vibrant and extremely rare Italian woodcut represents the decisive Battle of Lepanto. This is the first state of Christophoro Chrieger's outstanding work of which less than five examples are known. The watermark is of a shield with a unicorn.
Chrieger, one of the most remarkable woodcut artists of his day who worked in the artistic capital of the world, Venice, was born in present-day Germany and died in 1590. He left behind an impressive
oeuvre, including not only this woodcut but the many he contributed to Cesare Vecellio's La favorite del Turco ("The Sultan's Favorite"), one of the most famous early printed costume books covering the costumes of Europe and Ottoman Turkey.
The landmark confrontation at Lepanto, fought on October 5, 1571, was waged between the Ottomans and members of the Christian Holy League. The Holy League's forces were made up of soldiers and equipment from the Republic of Venice, the Papacy (under Pope Pius V), Spain (including Naples, Sicily and Sardinia), the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller and others. In the
end the Holy League soundly defeated the Ottomans' navy, thus ending the Ottomans' dreams of supremacy over the Mediterranean. The forces of the Ottomans and Holy League suffered heavy
casualties during the Battle of Lepanto as this documentary woodcut amply demonstrates. The Holy League under the command of Don Juan of Austria fought with 206 galleys, 6 galleasses, and 1,815 guns at Lepanto, a strait between the gulfs of Pátrai and Corinth in Greece.
Don Juan, titular head of the Holy League, was the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V and half-brother of King Philip II of Spain. He divided the forces of the Holy League into four divisions, with the Venetians under Agostino Barbarigo on the left, himself in the center, the Genoese under Giovanni Andrea Dorea on the right, and a reserve led by Álvaro de Bazán in the rear. Ultimately, the Holy League lost 12 galleys and suffered 8,000 dead and wounded soldiers.(Don Quixote novelist Miguel de Cervantes was one of those injured.) The Ottomans fought under Ali Pasha and commanded 230 galleys, 56 galliots and 750 guns. In contrast to the Holy League, they lost 15,000 men to death or injury. In addition, 137 of their ships were captured and 50 of them sunk. Ten-thousand of the Ottomans' Christian galley slaves were also liberated by the Holy League. Lepanto was the last major naval battle fought solely between rowing vessels.
Lepanto constituted the first significant Ottoman defeat at the hands of Christian powers, and it all but ended the myth of Ottoman naval impregnability. Yet it did not impact Ottoman dominance on the
land as a new Turkish fleet was quickly assembled by Sokolu, grand vizier of Selim II. Nevertheless, as historian Paul K. Davis commented, the Ottoman defeat at Lepanto "stopped Turkey's expansion into the
Mediterranean, thus maintaining western dominance." Several Western historians believe that Lepanto was the most critical naval battle to occur anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31 B.C.
Due to its extreme historical significance, the Battle of Lepanto inspired a wealth of powerful art, including Chrieger's work.
Two pictorial representations of the battle are housed in the Doge's palace in Venice. The first, in Sala del Collegio, was executed by Paolo Veronese. The second, on the walls of the Sala dello Scrutinio, was produced by Andrea Vicentino. The second of these two works replaced Tintoretto's earlier Victory of Lepanto, which was destroyed by fire in 1577.
The dynamic woodcut offered here contains a wealth of pictorial and textual detail and was based on a drawing by the greatest painter of the Venetian School: Tiziano Vecellio (b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venice). In addition to crafting this drawing, he also painted the Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto. The battle is seen in the background of this outstanding Titian composition which hangs in the
Prado in Madrid. This woodcut depicts the Ottoman and Holy League forces inthe midst of action. Gun smoke and fire are seen billowing into the air and lines of disciplined sailors are shown rowing bravely into the tumult. Surrounding the central battle scene are text boxes written in Italian which describe the specifics of the conflict. Details about each of the individual ships used in the struggle are also noted.
This is an important separately issued Renaissance broadsheet with elegant mannerist strapwork design. It represents the essence of the conflict between the Islamic and Christian worlds that still continues
to this day.