On 12 September 1683, King Jan III Sobieski of Poland achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Vienna. In July that year, Turkish forces had laid siege to the imperial city as part of a campaign designed to strengthen the Ottoman Empire’s influence in Europe. Emperor Leopold I allied himself with Sobieski, who rode to Vienna’s aid and took command of the city’s relief. After the final battle took place, the Turks were routed and forced to retreat, eventually losing their foothold in Hungary and Transylvania.
As news of the battle travelled across Europe, authors and artists in many countries sought to congratulate Sobieski, celebrating his victory as a grand Christian achievement. Perhaps surprisingly, this also happened in the Northern Netherlands: Calvinism was the state’s so-called public religion, but that did not stop the Dutch from eulogizing the Catholic Sobieski. In fact, numerous poets praised the Polish sovereign as an acclaimed general and saviour of Christendom, and the Dutch Republic even became an international hub for the production and proliferation of prints in honour of Sobieski. The example shown here was printed by Pieter Schenk, an originally German artist who spent much of his life in Amsterdam. The poem beneath was written by the little-known author Jan Norel, who compared Sobieski’s “brave deeds of war” with those of Alcides, another name for the mythical Greek hero Herakles/Hercules.
*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 37.