The grandson of Maximilian and son of Joanna (“the Mad”) of Castile, Charles became king of Spain, where he ruled as Charles I, in 1516. Three years later he was elected Holy Roman Emperor, reigning as Charles V from 1519 to 1556. He was then the most powerful man in Europe, with domains extending across central Europe, the Netherlands, Flanders, Burgundy, Spain, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, enclaves in North Africa, and much of the Americas.
Anonymous Artist, Charles V at Age Seven with a Sword, c. 1508, oil on panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemäldegalerie
1)Filippo Negroli and Brothers, Italian, c. 1510–1579, Armor of Emperor Charles V, Milan, 1539, embossed and gold- and silver-damascened steel; brass and leather, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid.
Because of the decoration over the elbows, shoulders, and helmet, this armor is known as the “Mask Garniture.” (Garnitures are sets of armor with interchangeable parts that adapted the suit for use on horseback or on foot, in tournaments or on the battlefield.) It is the only suit of armor signed and dated by Filippo (in an inscription under the visor) and is thus considered the key work of the Negroli workshop. The exquisite damascening, a technique for inlaying the gold designs, is the work of Filippo’s talented seventeen-year-old brother, Francesco.
2)Philip II and the Royal Armory
The Royal Armory was created by Charles V’s son, Philip II, whose long reign as king of Spain lasted from 1556 to 1598. His wills stipulated that his collection could not be dispersed after his death, but should instead be handed down to his descendents. Philip’s great respect for his father and for the material and symbolic value of the emperor’s armor led him to purchase Charles’ collection, which had been slated for sale to pay off outstanding debts at the time of his death in 1558. Armor made for subsequent monarchs was later added to those two core collections.
Unlike arsenals, which keep weapons and armor to equip an army for battle, the Royal Armory includes trophies of war as well as armor received as diplomatic gifts or worn in pageants, parades, and tournaments. The process of decorating such armor, often by embossing or hammering the steel from the reverse to create designs in relief, weakened the metal. The armor is consequently more propagandistic than utilitarian, serving to impress viewers with its opulence and imagery extolling the wearer’s power, valor, and chivalry.
3)(left) Italian, 16th Century, Helmet (Burgonet) of Philip II, Milan, c. 1560–1565 embossed, gold- and silver-damascened steel, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid
(right) Kolman Helmschmid, German, c. 1470–1532, Helmet (Burgonet) of Emperor Charles V, Augsburg, c. 1530, etched, embossed, and gold-damascened steel; fabric and leather, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid.
4)Italian, 16th Century, Helmet (Burgonet) of Philip II, Northern Italy, c. 1560–1565, gold- and silver-damascened steel, fabric, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid.
Ancient wars were a popular subject for Renaissance parade armor, as on this shield and burgonet (an open-faced helmet) depicting scenes from the Trojan War. The left side of the helmet shows the Judgment of Paris, the Trojan prince who declared Aphrodite the most beautiful goddess after she promised him Helen, wife of the king of Sparta. On the right side, Trojans tear down part of their city walls to make way for the huge Trojan horse in which Greek warriors were hidden. Paris’ abduction of Helen and the Greeks’ departure for Troy appear in the center of the shield.
5)Filippo and Francesco Negroli, Italian, c. 1510–1579 and c. 1522–1600, Helmet (Burgonet) of Emperor Charles V, Milan, 1545,embossed and gold-damascened steel, Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid.
This masterpiece of the Negroli workshop was made from a single sheet of steel that was hammered out from the underside in a technique known as embossing or repoussée (French for “pushed out”). A Turkish soldier with bound arms arches over the top of the helmet, while two female figures personifying Fame and Victory grasp his mustache. The scene symbolizes victory over Islam and Charles’ role as defender of the Christian faith. The inscription compares him to “Invincible Caesar.”
Albrecht Dürer, German, 1471–1528 1) The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian, 1515 (1799 edition) 42 woodcuts and 2 etchings Gift of David P. Tunick and Elizabeth S. Tunick
2) Hans Burgkmair I, German, 1473–1531 Emperor Maximilian I, between 1508 and 1518 chiaroscuro woodcut National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection
Maximilian I was Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death in 1519, having previously ruled jointly with his father, Frederick III. The Holy Roman Empire arose from the ruins of the Carolingian empire of Charlemagne, which splintered following his death in 814. The eastern portion encompassing the German-speaking lands of central Europe developed into the Holy Roman Empire, which from the 15th century onward was ruled almost exclusively by members of the House of Habsburg. Originally from Switzerland, the Habsburgs governed from Austria after 1278. They began expanding their dominions when Maximilian’s marriage to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 brought the Duchy of Burgundy and the Netherlands under Habsburg control. Spain became part of the empire after their son, Philip the Handsome, married the daughter of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1496.
Maximilian commissioned works of art and armor that conveyed his imperial status. The monumental woodcut by Albrecht Dürer and his workshop evokes the triumphal arches constructed in ancient Rome in honor of victorious emperors. On either side, scenes of successful battles and dynastic marriages announce Maximilian’s military and diplomatic prowess. The central portion depicts a family tree purporting to trace his genealogical descent from Hector of Troy, Julius Caesar, and Clovis, the founder of the French royal dynasty. Maximilian’s equestrian armor portraying feats of strength by Hercules and Samson, also presents him as the successor to heroes of antiquity.