The Allegory of Venice in Triumph was created by Vincenzo Coronelli in 1685. As a Franciscan Friar, Cosmographer and Cartographer, Coronelli achieved great success and was renowned for his exceptional skill as an engraver. The quality of such work is revealed in this stunning plate, published in his Memorie Istoriogeografiche della Morea, Riacquistata Dall’arme Venete del Regno di Negroponte. This striking engraving allegorises the sixth Ottoman Venetian War of the Morea.
The Morean War – fought between 1684-1699 – was part of the ‘Great Turkish War’ between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. The Kingdom of Morea was the name given to the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece by the Republic of Venice, during their tumultuous control over the region.
The Ottomans gradually pried away Venetian control, even their coastal strongholds during the sporadic Ottoman-Venetian Wars that ended in 1669. The Venetians were battling to regain control of the Morea having recently lost Crete in the Cretan War. This was considered the only battle in which Venice emerged victorious having gained back some of their lost territory, however it was to be short lived. In 1715 the Ottomans regained the territory once again. It is in this engraving that Coronelli elucidates the concept of the Theatre of War; vast draperies frame the scene and putti lift the heavy swathes of fabric to reveal the battle scene to us. Spatially the composition is indicative of a theatre set, the battle appears merely a backdrop for the symbolic, grandiose power of the Venetian Republic.
As a Franciscan Friar, Coronelli has successfully united pagan mythology and Christian imagery. The female allegory of Venice personifies both the Dogressa and Athena, with a breastplate studded with an image of the Virgin and Child inset as a brooch. The Dogressa – the wife of the Doge – is subsequently elevated to the status of a Goddess; the liberté cap she wears is representative of the freedom and independence of Venice. A putto also bears a cross, struggling under its weight. Coronelli’s contemporary audience would have been educated scholars and the very wealthiest members of society – both of whom would have found such imagery perfectly legible.
This engraving represents not only the history of Venetian anxiety, but also focuses on the grandiose Italian Baroque style that both elevated and allegorised its subject. It captures a moment of victory for the Venetian Republic, before they were to be defeated again by the powerful Ottoman Empire.