Gabriele Possanner Institut of interdisciplinary study, ENBACH
European Network of Baroque Cultural Heritage edition:1 location:Gabriele Possanner Institut, Vienna date:26 – 29 September 2012
After September 1683, the news of the victory against the Ottoman Turks by the armies of the Austrian Habsburg emperor Leopold I and his allies at the siege of Vienna was announced in Western Europe through prints and public celebrations. In the Southern Netherlands, ruled by the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs, the victories of the Austrian emperor became a welcome news item. Since many years the Spanish king Charles II was losing his control on events in the war-stricken and impoverished Southern Netherlands. Despite the declining economic and political background, processions celebrating the victories of the Habsburg armies on the Ottoman Turks were widely supported by different governmental and urban elites. Triumphal arches and cars with full pump and circumstance displayed the victorious Habsburg emperor and the Spanish monarch together, as if the Spanish Habsburgs weren’t in decline. The catholic church and the Habsburgs were portrayed as the causes of the miraculous victories on the Turkish armies.
The portrayal of the Ottoman Turks and their adversaries was done in a symbolic language supporting the governmental, urban and religious elites. The Ottomans were shown as “barbarians from hell” and as “savage, cruel and cunning fighters”. The portrayal of the Habsburgs emphasized the Habsburg tradition as defender of the catholic faith. In the prints and celebrations the common past and other connections of the different Habsburg branches and their courts were recurrently used. Comparable to other catholic countries, the catholic orders in the Southern Netherlands, like the Jesuits had a crucial part in the created image and were together with the governmental elites responsible for an easy transfer of images from region to region, from city to city.
The thus created image of the Ottoman Turks was as such highly propagandistic and was used frequently in the era of the Baroque. Celebrating a victory on a generally detested enemy hided the failures and problems of the Southern Netherlands and strengthened the image of the ruling governmental, religious and urban elites.