“Rosamund captive before King Alboin of the Lombards” (1942)
by Chevalier Fortunino Matania (1881 – 1963)
10 x 13 in., pencil, ink, and wash on paper
from: Britannia and Eve [v24 #3, March 1942] p 21
Old Tales Re-Told: A Gruesome Cup – The Ordeal of Queen Rosamond
A masterful illustrator, Matania was an Italian artist known far and wide for his incredible historical illustrations.
The title refers to a couple of different events in the history of Queen Rosamund.
Rosamund’s people, the Gepid, fought a losing battle against the Lombards for 20 years, ca. 550-570. The Lombards had killed her grandfather (the king) and her uncle.
Her father, Cunimund, lost the kingdom in 567, and he was decapitated. She was taken as a prisoner by King Alboin of Lombard, which is the scene depicted here.
Alboin’s late wife had not produced a male heir and so he married Rosamund for this purpose. He was noted for his cruelty. The title of this story (A Gruesome Cup) derives from a report by Paulus Diaconus, who states that at a royal banquet in Verona, Alboin forced her to drink from the skull of her dead father (which he carried around his belt), inviting her “to drink merrily with her father.”
Along with her lover, Helmichis, the king’s arms bearer, she plotted Alboin’s assassination. Helmichis recommended Peredeo to carry out the act, but he refused to help. Disguised as a servant, Rosamund bedded Peredeo and blackmailed him into helping. Following a great feast, the drunken king was murdered.
Rosamund ran off with Helmichis and a trove of Alboin’s private treasures. Soon after they married, however, she took up with another of the assassination conspirators, Longinus, whom she promised to marry in exchange for offing Helmichis. On to this plot against him, however, Helmichis forced Rosamund to drink the poison she had planned for him, after which he committed suicide from the same cup.
A low resolution image of the page from the magazine: