The Battle of Pavia occurred at a crucial stage in the struggles between the French and Imperial forces in north Italy. The city of Pavia was besieged by the French army from October 1524; in February 1525, Imperial forces attacked the fortress of Mirabello, shown on the left, in order to relieve pressure on Pavia and divide the French forces. This decisive battle of 24 February involved the capture of King Francis I of France (left of centre) and led to the establishment of the Emperor Charles V in Lombardy. The complex panorama of the battle is ambitiously presented here, with inscriptions in French and a variety of flags and banners identifying the protagonists and locations. The noise and drama of battle is effectively conveyed, including realistic detail of dead and wounded. Painted on Baltic oak, the painting was probably made in the Burgundian Netherlands and remains one of the earliest images of the battle, which was to be commemorated in paintings, prints and tapestries in the 16th century. A painting from the same workshop, with variations in detail and inscriptions in Italian, is now in the collection of the Royal Armouries, Leeds and it is likely that the same cartoon was used for both pictures.
image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford