Born 1808, Carl Werner travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East where he probably heard and was inspired by the story of Caterina Cornaro. She was the adopted daughter of the Republic of Venice married to the last Lusignian King of Cyprus James the Bastard.
Soon after her marriage in 1468 and the birth of her son, her husband and child died under suspicious circumstances and Caterina was forced to abdicate and give her kingdom to the Doge of Venice.
The watercolour shows Caterina Cornaro escorted by Andrea Bragadino, special Venetian representative, to the island of Cyprus. The Cypriot ambassadors are welcoming her on the state galley, the Bucentor. Behind her the Doge of Venice Nicola Tron is bidding farewell to the young future Queen. Next to him stands her mother Fiorenza, daughter of Nicolas Crispo, Duke of Naxos and of Valenza, daughter of John Comnenos, Emperor of Trebizond. Behind her stands Marco Cornaro, her father.
In the boat on the foreground, is her brother Giorgio Cornaro and in the boat next to it, her sisters. The Queen was only eighteen years old when she left for Cyprus. The episode takes place in the central square of Venice under the column with the winged lion of St. Mark. It is a festive day, the crowds are gathered in the square to bid farewell to Caterina, many nobles overlooking from the Doge’s Palace and the trumpeters announcing the departure of the Daughter of Venice.
The watercolour is in the typical manner of Carl Werner, full of people and action. There is much detail, attention and faithful historical representation in the scene. Pictures such as these must have contributed to how the history of Cyprus and her native Christian population were perceived in the mid-nineteenth century Europe – not least because the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus had parallels with Venice’s own suppression by Napoleon and subsequent annexation by Austria.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).