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The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg
Titian
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Titian

Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Véneto, 1490 - Venecia, 1576

Miniatura autor

The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg

1548. Oil on canvas, 335 x 283 cm.

This portrait commemorates Charles V’s victory over the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlberg on 24 April 1547. The Emperor is equipped in the manner of the light cavalry with a half pike and wheel-lock pistol. His suit of armour was made around 1545 by Desiderius Helmschmid and has an image of the Virgin and Child on the breastplate, as was customary with Charles’ armour from 1531. Panofsky pointed to the combination of two non-exclusive concepts to be found in this image, which depicts Charles as the heir to the Roman tradition and also as the incarnation of the miles christianus, as he was described by Erasmus in the Enchiridion (1503). The significance of the lance connects with both interpretations, referring to both Longinus and Saint George (the Christian knight par excellence) but also functioning as a symbol of the supreme power of the Roman emperors. However, the circumstances and period at which the portrait was painted mean that the religious connotations of this work are not as significant as the political ones. Imperial propaganda presented the campaign against the Schmalkaldic League as a political rather than a religious conflict, intended to punish those who had risen up against their legitimate ruler. In fact, leading Lutheran nobles such as Maurice of Saxony supported Charles, whose army was primarily made up of Protestants. In addition, while Titian was painting the portrait in Augsburg, Charles was giving his support to the Interim, which concluded on 12 March 1548, in a last attempt to bring Catholics and Protestants together. In such a context the Court did not wish to project an image of Charles as the champion of Catholicism or the arrogant victor over his own subjects, but rather as an emperor capable of ruling over a heterogeneous group of states and religions. Hence the lack of any references in the painting to the battle and the rejection of the ideas proposed by Pietro Aretino, who suggested that Titian depict the defeated trampled under the hoofs of the horse. We should also bear in mind that the portrait was owned by Mary of Hungary, in whose posthumous inventory of 1558 the painting is described in political rather than religious terms, stating that Charles is shown in the manner in which he went against the rebels.

The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg lacks precedents in Italian art and scholars have thus generally made reference to classical and Renaissance sculpture, such as Marcus Aurelius on Horseback and Verrocchio’s Colleoni, as well as to German art, particularly Dürer’s Knight, Death and Devil of 1513-4. Above all it has been associated with Hans Burgkmair the Elder, who in 1508 produced a woodcut of Maximilian I on Horseback, and in 1509-10 a Project for an Equestrian Sculpture of Maximilian I (Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina). The reference to Maximilian is particularly apt as it points to a tradition of equestrian portraits of the head of the Holy Roman Empire with which Charles V had previously been associated at Mühlberg. Images of Charles of this type included the reliefs of 1522 by Hans Daucher and the coloured engravings produced by Hans Liefrinck the Elder in Antwerp in 1542-4. It can be assumed that Charles must have intentionally sought out these affinities. Immediately after the battle of Mühlberg he commissioned an equestrian sculpture from Leone Leoni which, although ultimately unexecuted, recalls the project for the sculpture of Maximilian referred to above and which, along with the present work by Titian, was intended to reinforce the image of Charles as Emperor in a way appropriate to the particular political situation of Germany in 1547-8. Titian translated into painting and monumentalised these formal and ideological precedents, which were easily identifiable by anyone looking at this painting in Augsburg, the same city in which Burgkmair had worked for Maximilian some decades before, in close collaboration with the Helmschmid family, the imperial armourers. Despite its seminal nature, this truly exceptional work did not find immediate echoes in art, and the equestrian portrait had to wait until the early decades of the 17th century and the hand of Rubens before it came to occupy a place of honour in court art (Text drawn from Falomir, M.: El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 507-508).

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Technical data

Inventory number
P00410
Author
Titian
Title
The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg
Date
1548
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
High/Height: 335 cm.; Width: 283 cm.
Provenance
Royal Collection (Royal Alcázar, Madrid, "salón de los espejos-cuartos principales", 1700, no. 1; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "antesala de la Furriera", 1747, no. 1; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "paso de tribuna y trascuartos", 1772, no. 1; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de comer", 1794, no. 1; Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de comer", 1814-1818, no. 1).

Bibliography +

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Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 1.
Salon de los expejos / Quarto prinçipales / 1 / Primeramente de pone por Ymbenttario Un Rettrato del señor emperador Carlos quinto a Cauallo Armado Con Vna lanza en la mano orixinal del tiçiano de Zinco Varas de altto y quatro de Ancho Con marco negro tasada en Vn mill Doblones de a dos escudos ... 1000

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 1.
PINTURAS EXISTENTES ANTIGUAS / En la Antesala de este Oficio [¿Furriera?] / {10220} 1 / Vn lienzo de vn retrato del señor Emperador Carlos quinto a cauallo de cinco varas de caida y tres y media de ancho original de el Ticiano y por haber asegurado dichos don Juan de Miranda y don Andres de La Calleja ser antiguo y de los que quedaron por fallecimiento del señor Carlos segundo en la Real Casa no se sacó y se saca la partida millar en blanco y lo mismo se executará con todos los de esta clase en conformidad de lo prevenido en los presupuestos anteriores = Esta pintura se halla en el inventario del señor Carlos segundo tasada en mil doblones de a sesenta reales cada vno importan sesenta mill reales

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 1.
Paso de Tribuna y Trascuartos [...] [12725] 1 / Vn retrato del señor Carlos V a caballo de quatro varas de caida y mas de tres de ancho original de Ticiano

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 1.
Pieza de comer [...] {22} 1 / Qutro varas de alto y mas de tres de ancho: retrato de Carlos quinto a caballo. Ticiano ... 80.000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 1.
Pieza de Comer [...] {21153} 1 / Quatro varas alto mas de tres ancho, Carlos V a caballo = Ticiano

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 685.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 685.
Tiziano. / 685. Retrato á caballo del emperador Carlos 5º en la famosa batalla de Muchlberg. / La armadura y el casco de el Emperador son de acero bruñido incrustado de oro, la banda carmesí con fleco de oro, la gualdrapa del caballo compañera á la banda y el frontal compañero á la armadura. El penacho de este y el casco del ginete son de plumas carmesíes. Lleva Carlos 5º una lanza en la diestra, y conduce el caballo á galope corto. Fondo: país con efecto de sol poniente. (C.L.) / Alto 11 pies, 11 pulg; ancho 10 pies

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 457.
457.-Retrato á caballo del Emperador Cárlos V en la famosa batalla de Muhlberg. / Alto 3,32. Ancho 2,79.-Lienzo. / "El 24 de Abril de aquel año (1547) fué cuando el ejército del Emperador empezó á maniobrar. Una densa niebla cubria la tierra miéntras el Emperador, el Rey Fernando, el Duque Mauricio de Sajonia, su hermano Augusto y el Duque de Alba montaron á caballo. El Emperador tenía un aspecto guerrero, montaba un caballo andaluz, cubierto con una mantilla de seda encarnada, guarnecida de flecos de oro. Su armadura era brillante, el morrion y la coraza guarnecidos de oro; llevaba la..."

Exhibitions +

The Art of Power. The Royal Armoury and court portraiture
09.03.2010 - 23.05.2010

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Titian
10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

Location +

Room 027 (On Display)

Expuesto
Update date: 18-08-2016 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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