The Knight, Death and the Devil, Albrecht Dürer, 1513, 24,6 cm × 19 cm.

Titian’s composition lacks precedents in Italian painting, for which reason art historians generally refer to the classical Roman statue of Marcus Aurelius on Horseback (bronze sculpture, ca.170 AD, Campidoglio, Rome), Renaissance commemorative sculptures, for example, the Colleoni Monumentby Verrocchio (1395/1400-1475), German works including prints by Albrecht Dürer (The Knight, Death and the Devi, 1513-1514), the woodcut Maximilian I on Horseback (1508) by Hans Burgkmair the Elder, and a drawing by Burgkmair of 1509-1510 that is a design for an equestrian statue of the Emperor Maximilian I, grandfather of Charles V (Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina).

Titian adapted these formal and ideological precedents to the medium of painting, making them more monumental. Such sources would have been easily recognisable to those who saw the portrait in Augsburg, the city where, decades earlier, Burgkmair had worked for Maximilian in close collaboration with the Helmschmid family of imperial armourers. As a result, these images established an immediate and obvious link between Charles V and his predecessor and the concept of imperial dignity, a notion particularly appropriate to the delicate political situation in Germany between 1547 and 1548.

 
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