Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Cowards Don't Go to Heaven

The first Christian victory at sea against the Ottomans



If two galleys ram each other with their bows, a seaman need only walk a two-foot-wide plank to enter the enemy galley. And even if he knows that he would plunge down into Neptune's lap at once should he miss his footing, he confronts the mighty mouths of fire-spewing cannon undaunted and, driven on by his sense of honour, he will cross this small plank to the enemy ship.

Miguel de Cervantes, The Adventures of Don Quixote, 1605


The victor of Lepanto: Don Juan d'Austria;
woodcut by Anton von Leest, end of the 16th century


Navpaktos is a charming little Greek town

at the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth. In the early morning, old men sit over glasses of Ouzo and cups of coffee on tottery blue chairs along the quay. Day after day they enjoy the spectacle of the peaks across the Gulf on the Peloponnesus emerging from the haze. This was where, on 7 October 1571, Christian navies battled Ottoman galleys bristling with canons to save, as the West saw it, the powers of Christendom from being subdued by Muslim forces. A bloodbath for both sides, the event went down in history as the "Battle of Lepanto", which is the Italian name for Naupactus, the name of the town in ancient times.

Renaissance Europe always feared — not without reason — the possibility of being invaded by Ottoman armies. Three centuries before the Battle of Lepanto, Crusaders laid waste entire regions of what is now Turkey at regular intervals. Now the tables had been turned. Whilst the West was imploring its Saints to intercede for its armies, the Ottoman forces were burning Belgrade. In 1526 they conquered Hungary and, by 1529, they had reached the gates of Vienna. This was the point at which the West retaliated. After morning mass on Sunday, 7 October 1571, the galleys of the "Holy League", an alliance of Venetians, Spaniards and Papal troops, were cautiously cruising the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth when suddenly a murmur went up from ship to ship: the Ottoman fleet had been sighted. Numbering 274 men-o'-wars, it was drawn up in a broad crescent formation ten nautical miles to the east in the Gulf. At that time, the rules of naval warfare did not permit flagships to engage in combat. This convention was, however, jettisoned at Lepanto. By the time the Ottoman Sultana rammed the foredeck of the Spanish Real, splintering it under the blow, the battle had already been decided. Fighting ceased at 2 p.m., when a Spaniard beheaded the Ottoman commander in the fray and brandished his horrible trophy for the Turkish forces to see. Overcome at the sight, the Ottoman navy was paralysed. The Sultana was seized and the battle won by the Christian forces. The Holy League suffered 7,000 casualties, while 40,000 Ottoman seamen had been killed. One of the most distinguished survivors was Miguel de Cervantes. The Spanish writer, whose left hand was permanently maimed from injuries sustained in the fighting, recorded his experience in Don Quixote.

Yet, the hero of the day was John of Austria. The commander of the victorious Western forces was the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V and Barbara Blomberg, the daughter of a belt-maker from Regensburg, Germany. The man who had been scorned as a bastard won renown as the saviour of Europe, and was even paid homage by the Pope.


(с. 1542—c. 1617)
Battle of Lepanto
Oil on canvas
Palazzo Ducale, Venice


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