I. K. Sakcinski
Ivan Kukulević Sakcinski, a contemporary of Josip Strossmayer, was a young Croatian officer in the Imperial army when he was caught up in the “Illyrian Movement,” an assertion of Croatian nationalism within the Austrian Empire that began in the 1830s. Posted to Milan (then part of the Empire), perhaps to get him away from these dangerous notions, he resigned his commission after a year and entered politics in Croatia. In 1843 he gave the first speech in the Sabor in the Croatian language — before that, its deliberations had been conducted in Hungarian, and speaking Croatian (for a time called “Illyrian”) was an act of defiance. Sakcinski took an active part in the nationalist agitation of 1848, when Hungary attempted to throw off the Austrian yoke. The Croats gave their support to Vienna rather than Budapest, but nevertheless their national aspirations were firmly suppressed once things had settled down. Sakcinski was banned from participation in politics and kept under police surveillance. In 1850, however, he was a delegate at the conference that produced the Vienna Literary Agreement, in which representatives of Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians agreed to adopt a single literary language, thenceforward known as Serbo-Croatian.

Eventually Sakcinski was allowed to return to public life, and in 1861 he became Prefect of Zagreb. Apparently, however, he had by that time (much like Josip Jelačić, the Ban) had a political change of heart, and rigorously prosecuted all nationalist and anti-Imperial activity. When the Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 handed Croatia unequivocally to the Hungarians once again, he was removed from office and forced to retire. Perhaps this minor form of martyrdom persuaded Croatians to readmit him to the ranks of national heroes, or perhaps (as in the case of Jelačić) they simply decided to remember what they liked about him and ignore the rest. It’s also worth noting that he wrote many books and monographs on Croatian history and is considered the father of his country’s historiography. In that role, at least, he had a real effect on the growth of national pride and sentiment.

Sakcinski in the park
At any rate, there he is in the park, wearing what looks at first like a shirt of chain mail. But on a closer look one notices a high collar that is certainly not medieval. The bust is probably a romantic version of the portrait above, which was published in 1889, the year of his death, when he would have been 73. It is taken from a photograph that presumably shows him as a somewhat younger man, wearing a military uniform with a Maltese cross decoration and a fur cape thrown casually about his shoulders. The cape’s unfastened fastenings (which look as if they might be made of metal) have been been converted by the sculptor into something more heroically ancient, the subject’s expression made a little grimmer, and his head slightly bowed, perhaps under the burden of his nation’s suffering.