Titian’s intention was to create an extremely direct image of the Emperor. To do so he looked to the Official Chronicle by Luis de Ávila y Zúñiga (1546-1547), whose text describes the type of horse, the arms and armour deployed (the horse’s harness was made by the Helmschmid) and the weather conditions on the day. These are the only references to the battle made by Titian in the painting.

Titian rejected the ideas proposed by the Tuscan writer Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) who suggested that the painting should include a defeated figure of the enemy beneath the hooves of the Emperor’s horse, accompanied by allegories of Religion and Fame.

While Titian was painting this portrait in Augsburg, Charles V gave his support to the Interim, held in the same city until 12 March 1548, in a final attempt to reconcile Catholics and Protestants. The imperial court’s intention was not to project an image of Charles as the defender of Catholicism or as an arrogant victor over his own subjects. Rather, it wished to emphasise his conciliatory nature through a depiction of the Emperor as a figure able to govern a heterogeneous group of states and faiths. As a result, Titian’s portrait presents Charles as an isolated figure and omits any direct reference to the battle.

The renowned art historian Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968) pointed to the fact that the image combines two different but compatible concepts, simultaneously showing Charles V as the heir to the Roman tradition and as the embodiment of the miles christianus (Christian knight), as he was described by Erasmus in his manual on the Christian knight, entitled Enchiridion (Louvain, 1503). The lance refers to both traditions: that of Longinus and the weapon used by Saint George, the paradigmatic Christian knight, as well as the symbol of the supreme power of the Roman emperors.

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