The Battle of Lepanto was fought between the navies of the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire on 7 October 1571. The victory of the Holy League’s navy halted Islamic expansion into the western Mediterranean, and prevented the invasion of Italy.
Before the Battle, Pope Pius V had called for the faithful to pray the rosary, and he attributed the subsequent victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To commemorate the event, he instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory.
I made this drawing on a large sheet of goat parchment, one half of the skin cut long ways. It is shaped so that it might be hung within a stretcher frame.
I wanted the picture to be an icon of religious significance, rather than a celebration of violence. For that reason I chose not to depict any deaths in detail. The clash between the navies is in its first moments; its importance is that it will likely determine the future religion of Europe. The opposing forces I arranged as symmetrically as possible, distinguishing them by the banners and flags that declare the respective religious doctrines they champion.
On the Muslim side, the largest banner displays a Koranic passage explicitly denying the Divine Sonship. On the Christian side, the largest banners declare the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the God Man in Jesus Christ, and His death on the Cross. The closest ship depicted here is manned by the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.
In the center, between the opposing navies, I drew within a mandorla the Blessed Virgin Mary, holding the Christ Child; I based these figures loosely on the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá. Both the Virgin and Child hold a long rosary in the style of a medieval paternoster. The crucifix at the end of the rosary hangs below the mandorla into the scene of battle.
The horizon of the scene of battle is curved downward. The lands depicted in the background symbolically represent the broader Mediterranean, not just the area around Lepanto. The cities with domed churches and fortresses flying Islamic flags represent Greece under Ottoman rule. On the far left part of the drawing, Sicily, Apulia and Calabria are represented, identifiable by their flags and architecture.
Across the entire bottom of the drawing, I drew waves infested with hammerhead sharks.
The border includes knot decoration, Maltese crosses and the Angelic Salutaion, written both in Gothic blackletter and Arabic script, running in opposite directions across the top. This inscription includes also a lily and sword (traditional symbols of divine mercy and justice), and a chronogram in red: MDLTTI, representing the year 1571 (t here standing in for the unavailable letter x).
Throughout the drawing, I drew inspiration from both Christain and Islamic decorative art, including muqarnas and lettering resembling square Kufic to write Iesus Christus Filius Deus in the central mandorla.
Medium: Drawing, color ink on goatskin parchment
Dimensions: irregular, 14" at its tallest and 28" at its widest
The original drawing was made on private commission.
Open-edition giclée prints of this drawing are available. You may use the buttons below to pay via PayPal, debit card, or credit card. Be sure to confirm the shipping address.
Actual size art print: $450
24" × 44" large print: $675
200dpi digital download: $90
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