Battle of Fornovo (1495) in the accounts of eyewitnesses and visual narrative


  • Володимир Hutsul State higher education institution «Uzhhorod National University»



battle, Fornovo, engraving, Italian wars


The article aims to compare visual and narrative reports of the battle of Fornovo (1495), the first encounter of the Italian Wars (1494-1559), and to reflect on the possibility of "credible" or "authentic" reconstruction of a battle action by visual sources. For this purpose, we have selected two important texts – “combat reports” of direct participants of the battle, including the one of a French writer and diplomat Philippe de Commines, and the other, made by surgeon general of Venetian army Alessandro Benedetti. An anonymous engraving “the Battle of Fornovo” printed on two sheets circa 1495 represents visual sources. Close analysis of both texts and the engraving shows not only a widespread compliance in general battle accounts, but all finest details of the narrations as well. Contemporary texts and artefacts confirm the accuracy of the depiction of arms, armour, and battle clothes, military strategy and practices. Most interesting thing lies in the special mention of stradiotes – the Greek and Balkan light mounted mercenary troops on Venetian service, which has striking analogies with the panel “Battle of Orsha” (circa 1525-1530) from the National Museum in Warsaw,  Poland. As it appears, the anonymous master of “the Battle of Fornovo” created the clear and readable visual military report. Despite all shortcomings of the genre, thee conclusions seems to be clear. From the chaos of details the anonymous engraver, using unpretentious figurative techniques, scrupulously built a connected, structured, verified and humorous story about the clash of the Italian and French troops in the Taro River valley which took place on July 6, 1495. The visual story in every detail coincides with the accounts of the battle participants. From visual historical source, one should not expect more.




How to Cite

Hutsul В. . (2021). Battle of Fornovo (1495) in the accounts of eyewitnesses and visual narrative. TEXT AND IMAGE: ESSENTIAL PROBLEMS IN ART HISTORY, 2(4).