Habsburgs and mermaids

fol. 2 (click to open full view)

Maximis, Et Avgvstis Principibvs Avstriacis Ridvlpho, Hernesto, Et Ioanni, Paganvs Paganinivs S. P. D. - Genua : Apud Antonium Bellonum, 1571.

Austrian National Library, shelfmark: 310.359-B.Alt-Mag

For eight years Rudolph and Ernest, the two eldest sons of Emperor Maximilian II., had been living at the Madrid court of Philipp II., their father’s cousin. In the summer of 1571 they started for their native Vienna, embarking at Barcelona. As far as Genoa, they travelled accompanied by Don John of Austria, natural son to Emperor Charles V. and therefore the princes’ cousin once removed.

In May 1571 a Holy League had been formed, initiated by Pope Pius V. and meant to break the Ottomans’ naval supremacy in the Mediterranean. 24-year-old Don John had been appointed “Captain General of the Sea”. In Genoa he was to meet Gianandrea Doria, admiral of the republic and one of the chief commanders under Don John. At Doria’s country estate, the three Habsburgs received the dukes of Parma and Urbino, Francesco de’ Medici and members of the Genoese signoria. Then Rudolph and Ernest travelled on to reach Vienna in time for the wedding of their uncle, Charles of Inner Austria, to the Bavarian princess Maria Anna.  On July 31, Don John set sails for Naples, where the League’s fleet was to meet. On October 7, the League defeated the Ottomans in the battle of Lepanto.

This rare print of a celebratory poem by Pagan(in)o Paganini pays homage to the “Austriaci Iuuvenes” [sic] in a manner most fitting the occasion: A chorus of Nereids and a chorus of Phorkids*) sing the praise of the naval hero and his cousins as well as that of their illustrious visitors , all in hexametre. Still, the author manages to reserve the greater part of the panegyric for paying homage to the noble families of Genoa.

*) The daughters of the sea gods Nereus and Phorkys often form the chorus in classical Greek drama.


last update 10/3/2013