Queen Caterina Cornaro (B-31)



Born: 25 November [St. Catherine's Day] 1454, Venice

Married: 30 July 1468 (Venice, by proxy) and 1472 (Famagusta, Cyprus), James II Lusignan, King of Cyprus

Died: 10 July 1510, Venice


CATERINA CORNARO became Queen of Cyprus through her marriage to James II Lusignan of Cyprus. The union, engineered by her father Cav. Marco Cornaro (B-16) and his younger brother Proc. Andrea Cornaro (B-17) culminated centuries of influence by the Cornaro family in the affairs of Cyprus.

In celebration of her proxy marriage in Venice in 1468, Venice created for the 14-year-old girl the title Daughter of St. Mark. The marriage was confirmed by a ceremony in person in Cyprus four years later.

Upon the death of her husband, 1473 (and of her infant son Prince James III Lusignan in August of the same year), Queen Caterina became sole ruler of Cyprus, though under the heavy influence of Venice. After her uncle Proc. Andrea was a victim of an unsuccessful coup attempt by Cypriot nobility in November 1473, her father Cav. Marco was dispatched by the Venetian government to counsel his daughter, experiencing many conflicts with other Venetian envoys during his years there.

In February 1489, in response to a mission from Venice headed by her brother Cav. Proc. Giorgio Cornaro (B-29), the Queen ceded her realm to Venice, receiving in exchange a life estate in a large domain on the Italian mainland, centered at Asolo.

For an account of her life at Asolo, see Pietro Bembo, Gli Asolani (c. 1495-8, publ. 1505). She is the subject of operas by Donizetti, Halevy, Bakfe, Franz Lachner and George Herbert.

There is a late portrait, c. 1500-5, of Queen Caterina by Gentile Bellini in the Szepmuveszeti Muzeum, Budapest. There also survives a chalk and watercolor portrait, 1494-5, by Albrecht Durer, derived from a now-lost profile portrait also apparently by Gentile Bellini. Vasari says the Queen also commissioned a portrait by Giorgione, mounted on a white horse at a hunt.

She commissioned, 1491, a baptismal font at Asolo Cathedral by Francesco Grazioli with her motto "Pour Lialte' Maintenir." She also commissioned Grazioli to design Barco della Regina at Altivole, 1491-2.


1997-9 C. I. Gable