Rip Off Portrait
Learn about the "Elizabeth Bathory" substitute portrait - another tragic woman.
Original posting: January 1, 2016.
Updated: May 17, 2019.
© ElizabethBathory.Org - Reproduction of this article in whole, or in part, without permission is strictly forbidden.
Perhaps no other portrait is used more explicitly, and as often as a depiction of Elizabeth Bathory than this one, both on the Internet, as well as in print. Well, using this portrait as a substitute for, or even hint that it is a likeness of Elizabeth Bathory is just plain unethical, and a blatant lie! The woman depicted in this portrait is actually Lucrezia Panciatichi (née, Pucci) by the Italian artist Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino, completed around 1545. If it matters to anyone, the portrait was painted about fifteen years before Elizabeth Bathory was even born, and if you want to see this "Elizabeth Bathory" portrait, it's on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
In his book, Painting and the Novel, Jeffrey Meyers, writes:
The most striking aspects of the [Lucrezia Pucci] portrait is the cold, melancholy look of the almost Byzantine severity, and the luxurious red silk gown with violet undersleeves and white guimpe. Lucrezia's splendid red hair is parted in the middle and coiled tightly around her head. She has a fine marble forehead, and full, strong features; and the skin on the long column of her neck is whiter than the pearls that adorn it. A fine golden chain rests on her breast and carries the inscription Amour dure sans fin [Endless Love], and there is another chain around her waist [which resembles a Rosary]. Her slim fingers extend elegantly along the arm of her chair and spread across the open pages of a devotional book bound in red leather. Lucrezia's pallor suggests... fatal disease which the 'love' of the motto enables her to endure, and this loyal love lasts beyond the "end" and is sufficiently strong to dominate... death. Bronzino's portrait style, which was influenced artists like Valazquez and Van Dyck and had its "effect" in determining the character of Court painting all over Europe, is decorative, sharply observed and severely disciplined; and his erect and immobile subject, thought magnificently detached, has a chilly worldliness.(1)
The Mannerist style, and subject of Bronzino's portrait, however, is an almost haunting and perfect personification of Elizabeth Bathory. Perhaps there is reason for authors to take inspiration from Lucrezia Pucci's portrait when writing about Elizabeth Bathory. Visually, Lucrezia is beautiful and she simply elicits emotion in all that view her portrait. Could this well be why some are drawn to Lucrezia when writing of Elizabeth Bathory? Perhaps there could also be another reason.
Lucrezia, the Heretic Moor...
A heretic? A Moor? These are two facts about Lucrezia that are not that easy to find and a bit of an "Uffizi secret," one might say. Lucrezia Pucci, patron of Bronzino, was "later forced to test her motto, for she and her husband... were accused of heresy, flung into prison in Florence and compelled to make a public recantation." (2) The "motto" that Meyers is speaking about, is that Lucrezia and her husband Bartholomew Panciatichi - a prominent Florentine writer, poet, and politician - whom she married in 1528, had converted to Calvinism. They both became Huguenots, to be more precise, and in the strict Roman Catholic world of Florence, this was heresy!
Her husband had strong connections to France. He was born in 1507 in France, an illegitimate son to an influential Florentine merchant with business in Lyon. His father arranged for him to stay and be raised in France. Thanks to his political connections, he grew up as a page in the French Court of King Francis I. After he returned to Florence, he became a much celebrated Florentine writer and poet, greatly admired by Cosimo I de' Medici, second Duke of Florence himself. In 1545 Medici appointed him resident ambassador of Florence. Bartholomew and Lucrezia returned to the French Court. It is during this time, it is thought, that they converted to Calvinism. By 1551, both Lucrezia and Bartholomew were openly promoting their faith in Florence. That same year, they were imprisoned by the Inquisition, along with about thirty of their converts. They remained imprisoned until they agreed to recant their faith the following year.
"On February 4, 1552, [Bartholomew and others] dressed in black with a yellow gag, torch in hand, made their way to the cathedral to proclaim their solemn renunciation of their heretical doctrines, and then burned their heretical books on a pyre... Ten days later, in secret, they proceeded with the same solemn recantation with Lucrezia Pucci, his wife, ...[which was] conducted from prison in the church of St. Simon." (3) After his recantation, Panciatichi recommenced his career under Cosimo Medici's protection. He was promoted by Cosimo to senator in 1567, commissar in Pisa in 1568 and, Pistoia in 1578. "He died on October 23, 1582, mourned by all who knew him... [and was celebrated]... for the extraordinary kindness and of ways of generosity of his heart and the great learning and teaching of which it provided." (4)
Lucrezia, in stark contrast, faded into immediate oblivion, her memory preserved only by Bronzino's portrait. Could it be that she died in prison, blamed, because she was a woman, as the cause for her husband's heresy by the Inquisition? Probably. Could it also be a case of racism, because of her family's North African ancestry? (5) Certainly! Lucrezia was, after all, the daughter of Sigismondo Pucci hence her maiden name Lucrezia di Sigismondo Pucci. By Florentine standards, the Pucci family, although aristocratic, Catholic, fabulously wealthy, and patrons of the arts, seemed to have a somewhat checkered past. It had nothing to do with anything with any actions of their family members, most notable of whom were three cardinals - Antonio Pucci (1485 - 1544), Lorenzo Pucci (1458 - 1531), and Roberto Pucci (1463 - 1547). It was a small matter of a genealogical blotch in the family's DNA. The Puccis were of North African descent and each Pucci generation worked hard to cover over this family history which, nevertheless, was known in wider circles. The clues to this can be found in the Pucci family coat of arms which bears the "Moor's head" to this very day, but specifically in their original family motto - "candida Praecordia ("White at Heart"),[which] probably reflects the meaning of the Italian proverbs "Viso nero, cuore candido" ("Black Face, White Heart") and "Il bruno il bel non toglie" ("Dark skin does not beauty remove"). (6)
In the words of Earle and Lowe, the meaning of the Pucci heraldry has special significance - "The "Moor's Head" is a heraldic work of art representing the armorial bearings of the Florentine patrician family, the Pucci, whose coat of arms is a Moor's head with a head band charged with three Ts. These were interpreted in the seventeenth century as "Tempore, Tempora, Tempera" ("time is a great healer"); originally there were three hammers (martelli) because the Pucci originated from the carpenter's guild. The coat of arms of the Pucci is often found in Florence and Tuscany, for instance at the Palazzo Pretorio in Poppi where members of the Pucci family, especially in the seventeenth century, often held the position of vicario, representing the grand duke. Their coat of arms can also be seen in important works of art which belonged to them, for instance in the paintings representing the story of Nastagio degli Onesti by Sandro Botticelli and his workshop from 1482-3, today in the Prado in Madrid, and in a private collection, or on the maiolica service made for a member of the Pucci family c. 1532-3 in Urbino. Certainly the most striking example... of a Moor bearing the coat of arms of the Pucci painted by Giovanni Mannozzi, known as Giovanni da San Giovanni, in the third of the seventeenth century for the Palazzo Pucci in Florence, and today in the Uffizi. The fresco shows "una figura d'un moro sedente" ("a figure of a seated moor"), wearing a head-band distinctly decorated with T motifs; furthermore, the Moor is accompanied with the [older] motto of the Pucci: "CANDIDA PRAECORDIA" ("white at heart")." (7)
Despite being born into an influential, aristocratic, Florentine family, the Puccis, practically nothing else is known of Lucrezia, despite the fact that her husband was a celebrated poet and writer in Florence. It is as if all record of her had been expunged, probably by her inquisitors! They could. Lucrezia was, after all, merely a woman, insignificant in a patriarchal sixteenth-century, rabid, intolerant, racist, odious, avaricious, Holy Roman Imperial Habsburg world! Ethical, moral, legalised, exterminations of convenience, millions of lives, regardless of social rank, wealth, or privilege - like Lucrezia's - maintained a European establishment - a world order.
The Similarities Between Elizabeth Bathory and Lucrezia Pucci
The similarities of both women are quite striking in many respects, but especially in terms of persecution for their faith. Like Elizabeth Bathory, Lucrezia Pucci is a beautiful and enigmatic female figure in history. Except for some snippets of information, very little is known of the lives of either woman, despite their high standing and influence in their respective societies.
Lucrezia was born into a powerful noble Florentine family, the Puccis. Elizabeth was born into a powerful noble Hungarian family, the Bathorys. Both women ran into a head-on clash with Catholic elites. Both were practitioners of the Calvinist, Protest faith. Both were imprisoned. Both had their reputations destroyed. And both women, had their lives intentionally erased from the historical record. Search the public record, or even the Internet for their names and the results and content speak for themselves.
At the time of writing this article in 2016, search results yielded about 300,000 for "Lucrezia Pucci" and about 30,000 for "Lucrezia Panciatichi." The informational context in each of these web pages is almost exclusively three bits of information: First, and most popular, the Bronzino portrait of her; second, that she was wife to Bartholomew Panciatichi whom she married in 1528; and third (if one really digs deep), that she and her husband ran into issues with the Inquisition in Florence. Try searching a little deeper for information on basic details of her life and one gets nothing else. No birth or death date. Nothing about where she was born, or where she died. Nothing about children. Nothing. For this, one needs to scour old books and manuscripts, and even then, the information is scarce!
A little more is known of Elizabeth's personal life than Lucrezia's, but not that much. A search on the Internet for "Elizabeth Bathory" in 2016 yielded about 473,000 pages. The context in each of these web pages is almost exclusively one thing, folklore and myth in that she is history's most prolific female serial killer, and very little otherwise. There is some, but controversial, detail of her life, but much of it is invented to support her myth and notoriety by those that have little knowledge and understanding of historical facts. After her imprisonment, however, like Lucrezia, she quickly faded into obscurity.
Religious and political motivation extinguished any real memory of the lives of these two women. Epidemic human ignorance kept it, and keeps their legacies in obscurity still. Lucrezia Pucci was a Catholic who dared to convert to Calvinism in a Medici, Catholic Florence. This made her a heretic. Elizabeth, like Lucrezia, was a Protestant, a Calvin in a Habsburg Catholic Imperial Hungary. Elizabeth Bathory's crime was that of woman who simply wanted to, but failed in, liberating her people from a Catholic, Austrian Habsburg repression. This made her a traitor. Elizabeth and Lucrezia lived in world embroiled in almost perpetual geopolitical wars of material greed, waged 1524 to 1648, between Catholic and Protestant political elites. One side waged war to maintain political power, the other to obtain it. Tragically, it should be mentioned that it is conservatively estimated, that of a population of about seventy-five million, seven million people were butchered, or roughly 10% of the total European population!(8) Millions more lives, regardless of their social standing were ruined.
Ignorance: It's Not Bliss!
Today, what little remains of each woman's real memory, is preserved through their portraits and the talent of the artists that created them centuries ago. Perhaps these works of art were spared because of their sheer beauty and elegance. Perhaps because of their value. One will never know for sure except that the world is enriched by their existence. Sadly, their real histories - the things which really matter - are mute!
While, perhaps, 1% of the public can appreciate these portrait's beauty and history which they represent, the 99% is oblivious to it. It has nothing to do with wealth, but wisdom, the real difference between the 1% and 99%! These portraits have fallen victim to the times. They are exploitable, consumable, and disposable objects within the realm of social and other media. It's easy. No need to pay thousands, millions of dollars for art. No! One click on a digital image, and one becomes an instant owner for free! To Hell with someone else's rights, copyright or any law! It's all about "me" now! In this regard, both portraits of Elizabeth Bathory and Lucrezia Pucci are perversely abused. Both women's memories are perverted by people completely ignorant of real history. Instead of producing real histories and the lessons for humanity they hold, they choose to peddle fabricated myths and sensational scandals. It's easy to make up. It's all facilitated by the medium of mass media - both entities chasing the eternal "buck" and the new social drug - popularity! Together, they fabricate fantasy into altered reality. Anything goes. Intellectual property theft, copyright infringement - anything for attention, popularity, and greed. It's all funded by a gullible public which eagerly consumes this "idiotic dribble" as though it were cosmic truth. The public can't get enough of it. It believes it, in fact! This is the narcissistic world of the Consumer and Digital Age of the twenty-first century. This is the real world of the 99%. Sensationalism and scandal sells. No knowledge of wisdom required. That's the tragic part, an epidemic of historically ignorant individuals incapable of thinking for themselves.
Lucrezia is featured on no less than three book covers that we know of, probably even more in other media as that of Elizabeth Bathory's likeness. Now, since Elizabeth's portrait was first published on this site in January 2016, it's used to peddle sensational "idiotic dribble" on hundreds of Internet sites. It can't be stopped. A Medieval Dark Age "idiocrasy" which peddled illusions resulting in a humanity which had its "eyes wide shut" due to to ignorance is returning to our time. It did not turn out very well for the 99% back in medieval times, and if real history is to be the guide, it won't turn out well in the future either. The irony is, back in medieval times, ignorance was forced upon humanity. This time around, humanity is doing it to itself!
- Meyers, Jeffrey. Painting and the Novel. Manchester University Press. Manchester, UK. 1975. p.23-25. Quotes from Levey, Michael. Prince of Court Painters: Bronzino. Apollo. 1962. p 169.
- Passerini, Luigi. Genalogia e storia della famiglia Panciatichi. Florence. 1858. p. 70-72
- Earle, T.F., and Lowe, K.J.P. Black Africans in Renaissance Europe. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 2005. p. 185-190.
- See article: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/africans-in-medieval-and-renaissance-art-moors-head/ - Africans in Medieval & Renaissance Art: The Moor's Head, Victoria and Albert Museum, for additional information on the Pucci North African connection.
- Earle, T.F., and Lowe, K.J.P. Black Africans in Renaissance Europe. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 2005. p. 185-190.
- See: http://necrometrics.com/pre1700a.htm - Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century