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Emperor Carlos V and the Fury
Leoni, Leone; Leoni, Pompeo
Close Continuar a ficha de la obra
Leoni, Leone
Arezzo, Tuscany, 1509 - Milan, 1590
Leoni, Pompeo
Milan, 1533 - Madrid, 1608

Emperor Carlos V and the Fury

1551 - 1555. Bronze.
Not on display

In 1549 in Brussels Charles V commissioned Leone Leoni to execute a group of statues of himself and his deceased wife the Empress Elizabeth of Portugal.They were to be in different formats (bust and half-length) and materials (marble and bronze).The most famous is Charles V and the Fury due to its conceptual and artistic importance and complexity.This was the first monumental sculpture by Leoni and the one that, in his own words, would bring him most fame and serve to reveal him in ‘un altro animo che da medaglista’. On 20 December 1550, the sculptor wrote to Granvela from Milan asking for his help in obtaining the Emperor’s permission to enlarge the sculpture with the addition of the figure of the Fury, which Leoni termed a ‘caprice’. From this letter it is evident that the Fury was to replace the representation of the Emperor’s victories or the personification of a defeated province (a common motif in Roman art and one that in this case, and given the recent victory at Mühlberg, would represent Germany).These were elements that Leoni considered inappropriate to ‘la modestia grande di sua Mtà’. In June 1551 he again requested Granvela’s help regarding a new ‘caprice’; that of giving the sculpture a removable suit of armour, an unprecedented device in classical or renaissance art but one that would allow him to combine two traditions: the armed portrait of Hellenistic origin adopted in Roman art and also the symbol of the miles christianus; and the nude, reserved for gods and emperors. Leoni received the permission that he required: the nude figure of the Emperor was cast on 19 July 1551, and the Fury in November 1553, while the suit of armour, which is 90 cm high, was almost finished in August 1555. In 1556 the sculpture, together with the other portraits, was presented to the Emperor in Brussels, although it was not completed until 1564 in Madrid. From the above we can conclude that Leoni devised the figure of the Emperor alone and nude, subsequently adding the Fury and finally the armour after a period in Augsburg from January to March 1551. It should be noted that, prior to his meeting with Charles in Brussels, Leoni had received a commission from Ferrante Gonzaga for an equestrian monument of the Emperor that was not ultimately executed.We only know that Charles was to appear in armour in a pose identical to that of Marcus Aurelius in his equestrian statue and that the Doric base was to feature the Emperor’s victories. Some of these elements, such as the victories, appear in the original project for Charles V and the Fury.This unrealised equestrian monument is useful for revealing Leoni’s interest in identifying the formal and conceptual sources appropriate for his task as imperial sculptor and expressly stated in his related correspondence. Mezzatesta wrote the best analysis of this group, pointing to two nude statues of Andrea Doria as precedents. In 1529 Baccio Bandinelli (1493–1560) was commissioned to execute a nude bronze statue of Doria for the Palazzo Comunale in Genoa known from a drawing in the British Museum. In 1534 he decided to produce it in marble rather than bronze, but in 1538 he abandoned the project, leaving the statue unfinished, although it was installed in the Cathedral square in Carrara.The commission passed to Giovanni Antonio Montorsoli (c. 1506–1563), who produced a monument largely destroyed in 1797 of which the torso and part of the base survive. Mezzatesta also referred to the colossal statue of François I as Mars made for a fountain in Fontainebleau by Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571), for which a large-scale model was produced depicting the French monarch with a lance and sword, which Leoni could have seen in Paris in August 1549. In addition to these precedents, Mezzatesta pointed out other works that might have inspired Leoni. For example, earlier monuments with two figures include Judith and Holofernes by Donatello (1386–1466), Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli and Perseus and Medusa by Cellini (begun in 1545).While the figure of Charles would derive from Bandinelli’s project for Andrea Doria, conceptually, the figure of the Fury is inspired by Cellini’s medal of Clement VII. In the medal, the Fury also appears chained and seated on a pile of weapons at the doors of the temple of Janus, with Peace standing on the left setting fire to the weapons with a flaming torch, a motif derived from a line from Virgil’s Aeneid, ‘Saeva sedens super arma’, which Leoni himself mentions in his letters. The sculpture thus establishes a parallel between Augustus, a descendent of Aeneas and the dedicatee of the Aeneid, and Charles. As such it heralds the start of a new era of peace and prosperity reflecting the spirit of optimism at the imperial court following the victory at Mühlberg.The pose of the Fury is, however, derived from the print of The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence by Bandinelli (particularly the figure seated on the saint’s right), while its anatomical realism (which Leoni emphasised in his letters) and its dramatic pathos look to the Laocoon.The figure of the Fury is also essential for giving a sense of visual depth to the group and for allowing it to be seen from all sides without one figure blocking the other, producing a multiplicity of viewpoints that is emphasised by the circular base. ‘L’artifici è estato’, Leoni wrote in December 1550, ‘ch’io ho accomodato le due figure in poca base, et l’una not toglie el vedere l’altra: et da tutte le quarto vedute che debe haver la statua no ocupa niente’. The sculpture was devised following the rhetorical principle of the antithesis and juxtaposition of opposing arguments, making use of a double contrapposto of both a formal and emotional type between the grave, serene figure of Charles and the contorted, tormented figure of the Fury. As such, the work falls within the medieval tradition of representing Virtue defeating Vice, although emphasising the Roman concept of stoic ‘virtus’ to which Diego de Villalta referred in his Tratado de las estatuas antiguas (1591) when he noted that:‘And thus […] he has the vanquished statue of the Fury beneath his feet.Above all, the greatest victory and glory that can be told of this most prudent prince is that he was able to defeat himself, mastering and moderating his own fury at the end of his life’. ( Falomir Faus, M.: El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 506-507)


Technical data

Inventory number
Leoni, Leone; Leoni, Pompeo
Emperor Carlos V and the Fury
1551 - 1555
Height: 251 cm; Width: 143 cm; Base/bottom: 130 cm; Weight: 825 Kg
Royal Collection (Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, jardín de la ermita de San Pablo, 1701, nº 386).

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Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. 386.
nº. 386. / Un Pedresttal de Piedra y Sobre el Vna esttattua al nattural de el Señor Emperador Carlos quintto con Una figura desnuda echada que representta la Erejia con Cadena y despojos en la peana y estta en el Jardin de San Pablo tasada en seis mill doblones de a dos escudos hazen tresçienttos y Sesentta mill Reales de Vellon ... 360.000

Inv. Felipe II, 1598-1607. Núm. 3683.
3683. Una estatua entera, de bulto, de bronze, algo más que el natural, del Emperador Carlo quinto nuestro señor, armado, con espada en la mano yzquierda y una lança en la derecha, con el Turco a los pies prisionero, estatua grande de bronze, con despojos de armas, con cadenas, al pescuezo y en los pies y brazos; puesta la dicha figura sobre una peana de madera. Tasada en dos mill ducados.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. fol.25.
Un Grupo de bronce que representa a Carlos 5º con el Furor encadenado: / obra de Pompeo Leon de tamaño natural 370.000

Inv. Real Museo, Sección Escultura, 1857. Núm. 518.
518. Un grupo de bronce del tamaño natural que representa a Carlos 5º con el furor encadenado y varios trofeos militares obra de Pompeo Leoni. / Alto su todo 7 pies, 2 pulg.

Inscriptions +

CAESARIS VIR / TVTE / DOMITVS FVROR [alrededor de la peana]
Incised. Plinth

1564 / LEO.P.POMP.F.ARET.F. [sobre la peana]
Incised. Plinth

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Carolus - Toledo
05.10.2000 - 12.01.2001

Displayed objects +

Golden Fleece

Update date: 17-06-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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