Serbian culture of XVIII century in Karlovac metropolitan gained one of its first baroque masterpieces with appearance of Stemmatographia by Žefarović-Mossmer. This small precious book, without doubt among the most valuable ones Serbs had in that century, carried numerous messages which are even today being read and studied, but which were, for our people of that time, quite clear and close, given that Stemmatographia expressed cultural, artistic and national-politic tendencies of Serbian people in Austria contemporary for that time of great tribulations.

The fact Žefarović was introduced to copper engraving in Vienna engraving shop of Thomas Mossmer (1717-1777) should be ascribed to his artistic curiosity and wish that besides painting, iconography and artistic embroider technique learns technique of copper engraving as well. Persuasion and support provided by his mecena, Patriarch Arsenije IV, played important place in his decision as well. Žefarović dedication to graphics comes in times when this artistic skill was sought after. Until first copper engravings by Žefarović, Serbian graphics only knew technique of xylography, sticking to traditional stylistic and iconographic solutions, while engraving were mostly known as pages procured from Russia or those ordered by Serbian church dignitaries from Austrian engravers. It is understandable then that Patriarch Arsenije IV wished for an Orthodox engraver who will be able to produce engravings of certain ideological and artistic content.

First Žefarović-Mossmer engraving was published in spring of 1741, it was Saint Sava with Serbian saints of Nemanjići house, which was envisioned as graphic addition to diplomatic requests from Arsenije IV to Vienna court. This engraving was a sort of political propaganda memorandum, and was sent as a felicitation to empress Maria Teresa regarding her ascension to the throne. Engraving represents Serbian saints, but in fact, beside Saint Sava, characters of Stefan Nemanja, Stefan the First-Crowned, king Milutin, Stefan Dečanski, Uroš V and other rulers are present as well. All of them are shown with halo around their heads and yet, this engraving was not purely ecclesiastical. In essence, this was glorification of the Serbian past, respect which upheld the national spirit in difficult times, but also, it emphasized to the empress, the whole state administration, Hungarian nobles and hostile Catholic Church that settled “Rascians” are a nation with a glorious past.

Lower part of the engraving, beneath the saintly sovereigns, holds the old Serbian coat of arms: two headed eagle with writing “House of Nemanja” surrounded with six coats of arms of of South Slavic lands. To the left and right from the crests stands engraved a song in which Arsenije IV, in the very first verse, mentions devotion to the house of Nemanjići after which he lists the lands and regions encompassed by his Patriarchy and finishes it with verses:

“Here you will see all sovereigns, all saints.

Serbs, don’t lose hope

For princess Mary Theresa donned Hungarian

Imperial attire and crown upon her head,

To restore, for us the subjects, the glory in the years to come…”

Baroque praise of the Serbian past, expressed in this engraving and its verses stands together with loyalty to the current ruler, all in accordance with folk wisdom – the one to be pleaded with is not to be trifled with. Patriarch sent several indications of loyalty to the empress who will, for a long time, decided the destiny of the Serbian people in Hungary.

Engraving Saint Sava with Serbian saints of house of Nemanja was published just before Maria Theresa gained the throne. Preparations for publication of Stemmatographia are, at that time, already in full motion. First edition of the book appears already in October of the same year, 1741.

Žefarović-Mossmer Stemmatographia relied on the work of famous Croatian polyhistor and engraver Pavle Riter Vitezović, printed in 1701 in Vienna. Work was printed in Latin language under title “Stemmatographia sive armorum illyricorum delineatio, descriptio et restitution” and after that was printed again in Zagreb in 1702. Official Austrian policy was in favor of Vitezović Stemmatographia which had imprinted coat of arms of lands and regions – part of them under Turkish rule – which Austria would gladly annex after defeat of its old and dangerous enemy in the Balkans. Patriarch Arsenija IV was familiar with Vitezović work and idea on unification of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes which Vitezović expressed, in his own sly way, through his works at the expense of Serbs. With his associates, who participated in creation and guidance of Karlovac metropolitan policy, Patriarch Arsenije IV decided to publish Vitezović work in supplemented edition, that is, in completely changed form.

Patriarchal secretary and poet Pavle Nenadović Younger, with the Patriarch Arsenije IV and zograph Hristofor Žefarović, in terms of content and ideology, gave different character to the initial Vitezović work. It was no longer just a heraldic anthology – as in Vitezović – but was expanded with twenty nine images of South Slavic rulers and saints, portrait of Arsenije IV with a long poem dedicated to him, triumphal portrait of emperor Dušan on a horse, surrounded with coats of arms, image of emperor Dušan between Cronos and Minerva and in the end, song dedicated to Hristofor Žefarović which praises his Stemmatographia.      

This form of Stemmatographia only worked to emphasize even more the political demands of the Patriarch. Verses from a song dedicated to Arsenije IV only shed more understanding upon the idea behind this book:

“When you have, with council, offered help

Against enemy of Christianity

You inspired all of your Christians to war

And have gathered extensive multitude of people,

Able to confuse the mighty foe

You are all pure loyalty and to loyalty

You teach your People. To the glorious emperor, you have even pledged your blood…

And the spilled blood is already known to the Holy Roman emperor

Charles the Sixth invincible Roman emperor

Once you set forth into the eternal life make known

To August heiress, Hungarian queen

Theresa Maria, your unceasing Work

We remind again on the glorious Illyrian arms

Known to all of the world…

Through weapons was our national freedom won

By blood into gold appraised

And there you have the highest reason of my work

That regions in this book are whole of Illyria

And you its Patriarch by law of inheritance…”    

While characters or saints and rulers are categorized as praise to the glorious past, these verse refer to recent events. Patriarch war merits are underlined here, which he gained, with his people, in the last war, recommendation of the late emperor Charles VI was mentioned and in the end it was emphasized that Patriarch holds his rank in accordance with inheritance law.

Verses of Pavle Nenadović Younger, in poem dedicated to Žefarović, cast light on another important role of Stemmatographia for its contemporaries:

“I believe joyful shall be the reader

When he opens the book and gazes upon the entirety of the Serbian empire

For he will be free from the darkness of ignorance on Serbian past

And light of glory of the Nemanjići house will henceforth be known to him”.

In time period when history was barely studied in few schools, which were themselves of short duration, Stemmatographia envisioned in this manner was to provide our people with certain knowledge from national history and through that knowledge, to strengthen its faith, moral and political steadfastness. In short, Stemmatographia had role of historical album and handbook.

When it appeared, Stemmatographia was the most sought after and best received book of the time. It surpassed church books and became the favorite reading of the Serbian people. Though its mecena and idea creator was the Patriarch, Stemmatographia was not the book of the clergy but most assuredly the book of the young Serbian citizenry, class which as early as middle of that century is already advocating for more rights and democratic relations within the society. Stemmatographia was used as a learning tool from which children learned first letters, Dimitrije Dositej Obradović being one of them, while for the older generations, it provided political awareness and wellspring of patriotism.     

Images of South Slavic saints and sovereigns appear in the Stemmatographia in following order: Saint Stefan Nemanja and saint Stefan the First-Crowned (page 1a), Saint David and Saint Theoktistos (page 1b), Saint Naum the Thaumaturge and Saint Nikodim (page 2a) Holy Empress Anna, Saint Anastasia and Holy Empress Helen (page 2b), Saint Sava the Archepiscope of Serbs and Saint Sava II the Archepiscope of Serbs (page 3a), Saint Methodius Archepiscope of Moravia and Saint Jefrem Archepiscope of Serbs (page 3b) Saint Arsenije the Thaumaturge and Saint Nikodim the Archepiscope of Serbs (page 4a), Saint Kliment Archepiscope of Ohrid and Saint Theophylact Archepiscope of Bulgaria (page 4b) Saint Vladislav, king and autocrat of the Serbs (page 5a), Saint Milutin king of the Serbs (page 5b), Saint king Stefan Dečanski (page 6a) Holy young emperor Uroš Nemanjić (page 6b), Saint Milutin of Sofija (page 7a), Holy Lazar knyaz of Serbs (page 7b), Saint Jovan Vladimir (page 8a), Saint Stefan Škriljanović (page 8b). With this page, the gallery of South Slavic saints and rulers ends.         


Source: Dinko Davidov, Serbian Stemmatographia Vienna 1741, Novi Sad, 2011.

Prepared by: Vojin Spasojević and Boris Radaković

Translate: Ljubiša Malenica