Archduke Ferdinand as Fighter for a Righteous Cause

Giovanni Pietro de Pomis

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Giovanni Pietro de Pomis (1569–1633)

Archduke Ferdinand as Fighter for a Righteous Cause

Oil on canvas

Inv. no. 273

The Triumphator


Archduke Ferdinand (1578–1637), Regent of Inner Austria, sees himself as the staunch champion of the Catholic faith. Under the influence of his combative mother and Jesuit teachers, the fight against “heresy” becomes his life’s mission. His Biblical motto shows the side he sees himself on: Legitime certantibus – to those who fight justly goes the crown.


In this programmatic picture of the court painter, the Protestant opponent becomes the epitome of evil. Whoever fights him is deemed a celestial conqueror of the devil. As a result, Ferdinand appears in the pose of the Archangel Michael. The inferior loser is no longer Satan, but the “false doctrine”, an ugly, old heresy unmasked by time and truth. Secular motifs from pagan antiquity are employed to illustrate the role of the Christian triumphator: Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, stands on the side of the winner.


Ferdinand is elected Holy Roman emperor in 1619. His government is completely dedicated to advancing the counter-reformation, which he now tries to enforce throughout the empire. The result is a Thirty Years’ War that leaves his empire devastated.


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