One of the most recognizable buildings in Sombor is certainly the County building, built in 1809. After the final completion of its expansion in 1882, the County building had 200 different rooms, chambers, and halls.

In the grand ceremonial hall of the county assembly, there is an impressive painting by Ferenc Ajzenhut titled “Battle of Senta,” painted in oil on a single canvas measuring 7 x 4 meters, in a richly gilded frame. In the foreground of the painting, Austrian soldiers are depicted crossing the Turkish breastworks. In the middle part of the painting is Austrian Prince Eugene of Savoy on a white horse, accompanied by Count Palfi on a black horse with a drawn Turkish saber, leading captured Turkish Kisig Džafer Pasha. In the background, the fierceness of the battle is evident. When the painting is viewed from various angles, it creates the impression that the painting itself is moving.

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Recommendation on what to see:

  • Stained glass with the coat of arms of Sombor above the entrance to the county building.
  • Drawing “Sombor Seen Through the Eyes of a Bird.”
  • Statues of Minerva and Justice in the ceremonial hall.
  • “The Phenomenon of the Mona Lisa” in the painting “Battle of Senta” – the second horseman on the left side of the painting.
  • Self-portrait of the artist in the painting “Battle of Senta” – the first horseman on the left side of the painting.

Photography source: TOGS and Milan Đurđević

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The painting “Battle of Senta” by Franz Eisenhut

From 1786, the free and royal city of Sombor also became the administrative center of the Bács (present-day Bač) County, which was renamed the Bács-Bodrog County in 1802. Between 1805 and 1808, a two-story county building was erected in Sombor, which was extended and renovated between 1880 and 1882. The people of Sombor simply called this building the “Županija” (County) or “Varmedja”.

In the Grand Hall of the Sombor County building, where regular sessions of the assembly of the Bács-Bodrog County were held, an impressive artistic painting titled “Battle of Senta” was installed in February 1898. Its author, the painter Franz Eisenhut (1857-1903), was a German from Bačka Palanka, educated in Budapest and Munich at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He painted the scene of the famous battle between the Austrian and Turkish armies, which took place on the Tisza River near Senta on September 11, 1697. Several hundred soldiers from Sombor (including hussars-cavalry and hajduks-infantry) participated in the battle.

This battle represented the greatest victory of the Christian (Austrian) army over the Turkish army in the centuries-long series of conflicts. It marked the end of the Great Turkish War, which had been ongoing since 1683, and preceded the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, after which the Turks permanently withdrew beyond the Danube and Tisa rivers. In the ranks of the Christian army, under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy, there were German, Spanish, French, Italian, Czech, Moravian, Hungarian, Serbian, Bunjevac, and Croatian soldiers. Although the Christian army was outnumbered by the Turks, Prince Eugene’s tactics and strategy were decisive, leading to a quick and brilliant victory with minimal casualties among the victors and huge losses for the defeated army, along with a significantly large war booty.

Franz Eisenhut made the painting using the oil technique on a one-piece canvas, measuring four meters vertically and seven meters horizontally, framed in a luxurious gilded frame, made according to the painter’s design, with which (along with the wooden stand) the painting occupies an area of over 45 square meters.

Bács-Bodrog County commissioned the painting from Eisenhut in the early summer of 1895, on the eve of the millennium celebration of the arrival of Hungarians in the Pannonian Basin (1896). A contract was concluded with the painter in which the county undertook to pay him 12,000 forints for this work, of which 2,000 as an advance (for the amount of the fee, at that time, a property of the size of 30 cadastral acres of the best arable land could be bought). Although already experienced in painting oriental themes, Eisenhut immediately began to study the appearance of military clothing and weapons from the end of the 17th century, so in order to collect data on the battlefield, with the consent of Emperor Franz Joseph I, he also attended a military exercise near Senta, in autumn of 1895. Certainly, he was well acquainted with previous works depicting the famous battle because, in fact, he thematically took the idea of the central composition of his painting from the engraving (copper engraving) “Battle of Senta” by the Dutch painter Jan van Huchtenburg (1647-1733) from 1725 (Savoy on a white horse with a drawn sword in his right hand, surrounded by horsemen, to whom they bring a captured Turkish pasha, while the bodies of killed Turkish soldiers lie around, and in the background flags are flying and a battle is going on). The painter made many sketches, as well as at least four models in the oil technique. He enlarged the future scene of the painting to the desired canvas format (4 x 7 meters) using a square grid (raster), which he made in the last large sketches.

The painting, which was created in Munich during 1895/96, represented the climax of the battle, i.e. the moment when the commander of the Austrian army, Prince Eugene of Savoy, carried away in the heat of battle, riding on a prancing white horse, with his sword raised victoriously in the direction of the sun, is brought one of the defeated Turkish commanders. Next to Eugene of Savoy, the picture shows the Hungarian count János Pálffy, on a black horse and with a Turkish saber in his right hand, and on the far left is the Hungarian hussar colonel Pal Deak (none of the officers painted belonged to the first echelon of commanders, so they are obviously here painted as a compromise between the painter and the client, in order to give the painting at least some of the Hungarian national character). Between Deak and Savoy is painted a rider (an officer in a helmet) observing the battle, which is actually a self-portrait of the painter himself. In his portrait, the painter applied the “Mona Lisa” effect, which gives the viewer the feeling that the rider is looking at him from whatever angle he looks at the picture. The part of the composition where four Austrian soldiers with their backs turned gives the observer the impression of entering the battle. On their left side, the figure of dying Turkish soldiers next to a cannon barrel is effectively presented. The end of the scene disappears into the river Tisza and the blush of the sky.

Apart from the painting, its luxurious frame, carved and gilded, is a work of art. In the lower part of the frame, in a baroque decorated frame, the date of the battle (September 11, 1697) is written, with the inscription Senta (Zenta) and two palm branches on both sides of the frame. On the sides and in the upper part of the frame, olive branches are carved, and in the upper line of the frame, in the middle, there are symbols of battle (Austrian and Turkish weapons), with the noble coat of arms of Eugene of Savoy and with the coat of arms of Bács-Bodrog County, with St. Paul on it.

Skillfully crafted, actually built from several small scenes, this painting of baroque composition, exceptional spatial perspective and dynamics, with a rich palette of colors and a noticeable note of pathos and enthusiasm, was transferred in June 1896 from Munich to Budapest, where it was shown in the newly built Art Pavilion of the famous Millennium Exhibition.

After being displayed at the Millennium Exhibition in Budapest, Eisenhut’s painting was returned to Munich, where, during the second half of 1897, it was displayed at the VII International Art Exhibition in the Royal Glass Palace, in pavilion No. 62. It was visually recorded there and in the catalog of the great exhibition.

At the beginning of 1898, Mr. Eisenhut’s painting was transported by Danube, via Vienna and Budapest, and was brought into the Great Hall of the building of the Sombor County on February 20, 1898. Under the supervision of the famous artist from Pest, Károly Telepy, who represented the author, it was placed on the supporting wall of the Great Hall. As the framed painting was higher than the entrance through which it was supposed to be entered, tradition says that the county authorities allowed a part of the wall above the central door of the ceremonial hall leading to the balcony to be breached, and the picture was brought into the hall through such an enlarged entrance. On February 22nd, the painting was ceremonially shown to the people of Sombor and distinguished guests of the Bács-Bodrog County, thus marking the 200th anniversary of the famous Battle of Senta, a few months late. The Sombor newspapers of that time declared it a magnificent work that is worth seeing.

There were several attempts to take the painting away from Sombor, but it has remained in its original place to this day, thanks to the efforts of famous people from Sombor. Even today, 121 years later, this grandiose painting stands in the same place, in the Great Hall of Sombor County, and represents one of the most significant symbols of Sombor’s cultural and historical heritage, which is visited and seen annually by more than 10,000 visitors to the city.