Antal Verancsics (1504-1573) was born in Sebenico (Šibenik) to a noble family and he got to Hungary through family relations: his uncle János Statileo (Statilić) was bishop of Gyulafehérvár. His political career started in the court of King John I (Szapolyai). In 1541 he followed the widow of the king, Izabella Jagiello to Transylvania and only changed over to the other king of Hungary, Ferdinand I’s court in 1549 where he filled high administrative positions. As a Habsburg envoy, he sojourned in the Ottoman Empire on two occasions and in 1568 he concluded the Treaty of Adrianople (Hadrianopolis, Edirne). On the zenith of his ecclesiastic career he became archbishop of Esztergom (1569) and eventually cardinal (1573). He went into historiography, too: he wrote some works and a considerable number of sources he collected survive. In his youth he wrote poems in Latin and Italian and was on good terms with painters and sculptors. Martino Rota, also born in Sebenico, was invited to Hungary by him. Several data confirm that he had a keen interest in portraits (he wrote an epigram on Dürer’s Melanchthon portrait); he ordered portraits of himself from Melchior Lorch, Martino Rota and Antonio Abondio. He organized that a Crakow painter should paint the portrait of John Sigismund elected King of Hungary, and his correspondence with his siblings about having a portrait of his father painted is known. Back from his first mission in Turkey, in 1558 he wrote an epigram on an enigmatic woodcut composition of a multitude of elements tailored to Sultan Suleyman I, and dedicated the emblem to Maximilian, crowned king of Bohemia and heir apparent to the Hungarian throne. This composition is included in the second edition of Johannes Sambucus’ Emblemata. Some tomes of his library featured – in line with the fashion of the age – supralibros, and as bishop of Eger, he had an ornate parchment codex, a Praefationale made (1563). The rather mediocre quality initials of the manuscript echo the humanist cult of letters which produced the most beautiful achievements of artistic calligraphy in the middle of the century. In one initial Verancsics himself appears, his tiny figure kneeling before Christ’s cross (fol. 42r). Verancsics was interested in the material relics of antiquity, too: in Transylvania he collected stone carvings, coins and Roman inscriptions. As bishop of Eger he perpetuated the restoration of the castle in a monumental inscription. Also attracted to sepulchral monuments, he had the tomb of one of his predecessors in the diocese damaged in the siege of 1552 restored. He wished to have his funerary monument in the St Nicholas church in Nagyszombat, one like his predecessor in the episcopacy of Esztergom Miklós Oláh had, with a portrait statue. It was eventually not made. Finally, an overview of the sources that can provide clues as to the artistic interests of Antal Verancsics reveals that most of the sources are in the – unpublished – collection of letter and the book of poems he compiled. His intellectual self-portrait also includes his attraction to the arts.
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2020 Volume 69
Magyar Régészeti és Művészettörténeti Társulat
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