16th century Venice saw the presence of three of the great masters of the Renaissance: Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. In contrast to the prevailing classicism in Rome, Venice maintained is own style characterised by the use of intense colours applied with a firm, broad brushstroke. In the collection of the Museo del Prado, examples of this colourist approach characteristic of the Venetian cinquecento include Veronese’s Venus and Adonis, Tintoretto’s Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet and Titian’s Charles V at Mühlberg.
At the date when the portrait was painted, 1548, Titian had recently spent a period in Rome from 1545 to 1546, and art historians have suggested that this trip may have encouraged the classical nature of his equestrian image of the Emperor. In 1548 Titian was embarking on his final period, characterised by an even greater emphasis on pictorial and chromatic values rather than line, in other words placing Venetian colorito over Tuscan-Roman disegno. These characteristics are also evident in another work executed during his stay in Augsburg, the Portrait of the Empress Isabel of Portugal.