- Crusade Propaganda in Word and Image in Early Modern Italy: Niccolò Guidalotto's Panorama of Constantinople (1662) by Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby
This short book is a longer version of Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby's article, "Crusade Propaganda in Word and Image in Early Modern Italy: Niccolò Guidalotto's Panorama of Constantinople," published in Renaissance Quarterly in 2014 (67.2: 503–43). A fortuitous encounter with the large drawing of the Ottoman city in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art prompted her study of its author, the Franciscan Fra Niccolò Guidalotto, the iconography surrounding the city view, and the seventeenth-century context that sparked its production. This fascinating artefact and its story participate, as Nebby intended, "to the current scholarly discussion on East-West relationships in Early Modern Italy" (19–20). Important contributions to that discussion are her account of the religious politics of Guidalotto's sojourn in Constantinople and his return to Italy in chapter one; her insights regarding the Memorie turchesche, a manuscript (Cicogna 1971) in the Biblioteca Correr in Venice, in chapter two; and her rich analysis of apocryphal and eschatological material in the panorama in chapters four and five.
Guidalotti's tapestry-like drawing of Constantinople is dominated by the virtues, emblematic figures, and inscriptions that surround the city. The latter, which explain the iconography, are duplicated in a manuscript that was given, together with the panorama, to the Chigi pope, Alexander VII, urging him to mount a crusade against the Ottoman Porte. Both the panorama and the manuscript, which is dated Pesaro 1662 and found in the Chigi Collection in the Vatican Library, were recorded by the pope in his art diary. Debby notes that he may have commissioned the project, but since he was not a supporter of the Franciscans, and given the panorama's urgent political message, it was more likely a gift from the friar. She argues that it is "an example of visual propaganda" (20), but one that was a "glorious failure" (43) since there was no crusade.
The first chapter tracks Guidalotti's life from the fraught environment of Constantinople during the Cretan War (1645–69) to his retirement in Pesaro in 1659 where he made the map. Debby provides a useful introduction to Galata's embassies and religious orders during the seventeenth century through the friar's involvement with them when he served as Chaplain to the Venetian embassy from 1647–55. He was incarcerated during his sojourn, and writes of his mistreatment during this period conveying what Debby finds to be "feelings of humiliation."
Chapter two introduces elements of three artifacts to make a strong case for their interconnectedness: Guidalotti's panorama; a nautical atlas, which he dedicated to the Venetian bailo (ambassador); and the miniatures in the [End Page 590] Memorie turchesche that illustrate events that occurred during the years of the friar's tenure in Constantinople. Readers, especially art historians, will likely find this section to be the most disappointing of the book, for there is surprisingly little description of the imagery, let alone visual analysis. The small scale of the reproductions, with only a few details of the panorama, magnify the problem, making it difficult to assess the evidence, or to get much of a sense of the artefacts under consideration. Even those readers familiar with cartographic conventions and anti-Ottoman iconography will gain little understanding of how the complex frame, with its inscriptions and allegorical motifs, interacts with the city view. Publication limitations are often an issue for this kind of cartographic material, to be sure, but the shortcoming, especially in view of the lack of access to reproductions of the panorama online, is a reminder of the importance of describing objects, including illustrations, in the text.
Debby usefully outlines the importance of Venetian pictorial models for Guidalotti, notably Martino Rota's prints, and Jacopo de'Barbari's woodcut of Venice. She refers to the latter twice as a drawing, a typo, to be...