Monday, February 20, 2017

Tegethoff at Lissa: the battle in a flash

Back from Vienna, a visit to the Belvedere museum where everybody goes to see Klimt's "The Kiss". Yes, great painting the one by Klimt, but this one by Romako is simply unbelievable. So much that I had to put it up on the "Chimeras" site.

Consider that it was painted in 1880 and be amazed at how so much action could be packed into a single scene. It is a scene of the 1866 battle of Lissa, a small island in the Adriatic sea, where the Austrian and the Italian fleets squared off against each other. The Austrians were outnumbered and outgunned, but they won the battle by a combination of better coordination and superior tactics. It was, perhaps, the last naval battle in history where ramming played an important role. And the painting by Romako conveys what it must have felt when admiral Tegethoff, commander of the Austrian fleet, led his ships straight into the line of the Italian ironclads.

Note how Tegethoff is shown as the only one in the scene who is not leaning on anything, his hands in his pockets, his legs firmly set on the deck. And the scene breaks completely from all the conventions of battle scenes up to then: it is focussed on human feelings, courage, fear, enthusiasm, pure adrenaline flowing all over. Truly a masterpiece.


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