A Despatch from Trezibond. Henry Wallis. Exhibited Royal Academy 1873. Oil on canvas. Source of image: The 1880 Art-Journal, engraved by G. C. Finden, following p. 140. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Art-Journal Commentary

Trezibond has not been such an unknown name among us as heretofore. During the fifteenth century it was one of the most important cities of Asia Minor, and though greatly distracted both by internal warfare and the attacks of surrounding enemies, the city was regarded as the centre of the extensive commerce carried on between merchants of the Venetian and Genoese republics, and the nations bordering the Euxine or Black Sea. Greatly harassed they frequently were by the precarious condition of the government of the country, which, about the year 1461, was surrendered by the brave monarch who fought for its freedom against the Sultan of Constantinople.

Mr. Wallis, in his very striking picture — exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1873 — has painted an historical episode of no uncommon occurrence: a messenger from Trezibond is the bearer of intelligence much affecting two Venetian merchants, filling them with surprise and apprehension. One is evidently in great perplexity, but the other points out with eagerness something in the document that he appears to consider may yet give a favourable turn to the tide of affairs. The men of business, who may also be senators in the famous city of Venice, are seated against the wall of the Baptistery of St. Mark’s, an edifice wherein matters both of state and commerce were frequently discussed when the great Italian republics were in the height of their glory, and which at the present day is obtaining no small amount of attention from all who take an interest in the most celebrated ancient buildings of Europe, of which St. Mark’s is by no means the least distinguished. The rich mosaics on the walls, the sculptures on the stone seats, and the well-known porphyry group of armed figures — generally accepted as Crusaders — greatly enrich a composition remarkably original both in conception and treatment. [140]

Commentary by Mike Hickox

In the 1864 RA Catalogue, the painting was accompanied by a line from Coriolanus, Act 1V, Scene vi: 'Some news is come that turns their countenances'. The news the messenger has brought, which disconcerts the Venetian merchants, is almost certainly that the Christian Empire of Trezibond on the Black Sea has fallen to the Turks. This occurred in 1471 a few years after the fall of Constantinople. The setting is clearly St Marks, Venice, since the statue of the three tetrarchs, from the Diocletian period of the Roman Empire (not the Crusaders at all), is on the left hand side of the picture. This is also the setting for Refugees from Constantinople in which, too, the statue appears. The Tetrarch's statue, which is a symbol of imperial power, had been removed by the Venetians from Constantinople two centuries earlier. The implication would be that the power to resist the Turks has now been transferred from Byzantium to the Venetian Republic. This is the message of Found at Naxos as well, where the statue presented to the Venetian Senators is clearly that of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory.

Related Material

Image download, Art-Journal transcription and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Hathi Trust and The University of California Libraries and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

Bibliography

A Despatch from Trezibond. Art-Journal. (1880): 142.

Lessens, Ronald and Dennis Lanigan. Henry Wallis: From Pre-Raphaelite Painter to Collector/Connoisseur. Woodbridge, Suffolk: ACC Art Books, 2019.


Created 12 October 2021