(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Studies of Emperor John VIII Paleologus and His Entourage (recto)

Pen and brown ink on ivory laid paper, 189 x 265 mm
Art Institute, Chicago

John VIII Paleologus (1392-1448), emperor of Byzantium, was the last ruler but one of the old Roman Empire. He was invited by Pope Eugenius IV to attend a council in Ferrara to discuss the possibility of union between the Greek and Roman churches. The emperor arrived in Ferrara with a large retinue, and he was interested in recruiting support in the West for his conflict against the Turks, who were threatening Constantinople.

Pisanello, working in Ferrara for Leonello d'Este, was fascinated by the exotic appearance of the imperial entourage, details of which he recorded in drawings and used in paintings. He made sketches of the emperor, his retinue and their costumes, arms, and horses on two double-sided sheets that once formed facing pages in an album. The second sheet is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.