By the sixteenth century the Renaissance (introduced from Italy, where it emerged at the end of the fifteenth century) was in full swing in most Western European countries.
Although Charles V was a great admirer of music, it is true that he never had a special predilection for the fine arts. In spite of that, during his reign there was a true artistic explosion in many of the territories that made up his empire.
Compared to what happened with many of his predecessors, who were true admirers of fine arts and even passionate collectors and patrons, Charles V only aimed to fulfil the Renaissance precepts by transmitting an image of power essential for any powerful Renaissance man, although he did not develop complex iconographic programmes as his sister, Mary of Hungary, would.
The most important decisions made by the Emperor on the development of visual arts seem to have been inspired by his court, including members of his own family, such as Mary of Hungary, who developed a true iconographic programme around the most importing members of the imperial family.
His apparent lack of interest in visual arts and the absence of a fixed court explain the variety of languages used in his palaces and artistic images. Only during his last years we can speak of a united idea around a Renaissance iconography that answered the needs of the politics of the time.
But the fact is that this apparent lack of interest in the arts, in addition to the variety of territories he ruled, led to great diversity in how his own image was represented. Paradoxically, this favoured the development of the fine arts. And, thanks to the many portraits of the Emperor (both in painting, sculpture and exonumia), we know not only the evolution of his physical appearance, but the development of an image of power that became paradigmatic.
In the same way, this idea of the representative, symbolic and persuasive importance of the image was developed by his family, his court and some of the sites that became part of his vital path. This phenomenon was already known since Antiquity, but it increased spectacularly during the Renaissance due to, among others, the Humanist ideals and the development of modern states.
The first depictions of Charles of Habsburg were sponsored by his grandfather Maximilian. They show him immersed in the cultural world of the chivalry imaginary of clear Burgundian roots. In fact, he was educated in Ghent following the ideals of chivalry, especially The Resolute Knight by Olivier de la Marche, which accompanied him all his life.
In 1515 for his coming of age, Erasmus of Rotterdam dedicated his book Education of a Christian Prince to him. In this book, Erasmus expresses the idea that the depictions of princes should be dominated by sobriety, austerity, discretion and moderation, and should highlight wisdom as one of the main features of the monarch.
His first official images, encouraged by his aunt Margaret of Austria, reflected Erasmus ideas and were carried out by Flemish painters, such as B. van Orley and J. Gossaert.
In 1525, Charles V married his cousin Isabella of Portugal in Seville, traveling shortly afterwards to Alhambra Palace, Granada, where he moved the court. L. Hurtado de Mendoza suggested the idea of building a palace for the emperor and a mausoleum in the cathedral for the new dynasty, since there rested his immediate ancestors. Although it was never used and was not completed until much later, the Palace of Charles V, next to the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra, was the greatest construction of his reign.
The palace was designed by Pedro Machuca, painter and architect who lived in Italy for many years and had mastered the Renaissance artistic language. The palace has a square floor plan with a round patio inside. It has two floors: the lower is of a padded Tuscan order, while the upper is of the Ionic order, alternating pilasters and Palladian pedimented windows. The patio has a Doric colonnade on the lower level and an Ionic colonnade on the upper floor. This building was conceived in a classic and Italian style, with a clear imperialist iconography: its geometric floor plan, with a circle within the square, has been interpreted as an imperial and cosmic symbol.
In all of the other Emperors palaces, including his regular residence the Coudenberg Palace in Brussels, or the Toledo and Madrid palaces, the design is more traditional, still following the Gothic tradition.
The paintings commissioned or paid for on his behalf in Spain were not of a high level, even though in 1518 the great painter Alonso Berruguete was named court painter but he never acted as such. Only the paintings in the Queen's Dressing Room in the Alhambra by the Italian Julio de Aquiles and Alejandro Mayner, were of an acceptable level.
On many occasions, Charles V used the services of foreign painters, who did not belong to his court or never came to Spain. All the paintings related with the Emperor favoured the internationalization process already initiated by the Catholic Monarchs. Many works of art flowed into Spain through purchases, commissions and gifts. Either Italian or Flemish, these works of diverse nature and quality, contributed to the renovation of Spanish fine arts.
The pacifist ideals of Erasmus came into conflict with the political reality of the time, both for the imperialist aspirations advocated by Grand Chancellor Gattinara and the rivalries with other European states France in particular. The depictions of Charles V, especially after the Battle of Pavia in 1525, became more grandiose and imposing.
The imperial coronation and rapid succession of victories were decisive for the construction of an imperial image that was soon shaped according to the ideals of the Italian Renaissance. A series of Hispanic intellectuals, such as Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, Garcilaso de la Vega and Hernando de Acuña all of them of classic, Petrarchan and Italian formation became one of the best theoretical foundations to understand the many classic depictions some of them of clear Roman inspiration between 1530 and 1540. The most important are the portraits painted by Titian.
The path towards the Habsburg image, reached during the last thirty years of reign, was set around 1530. The first classical depictions of the Emperor are from that decade and were carried out to exalt his figure. Some were commissioned by the Emperor, or probably his closest circle, such as the portraits by Titian and Seisseneger from 1532, and L. Cranach from 1533 currently exhibited at the Thyssen Museum, Madrid. Other portraits were commissioned by cities, such as the images by B. Beham from 1531, the painting by C. Amberger from 1532 and the medal by H. Reinhardt from 1537. Without doubt, Titian's portraits contributed the most to the creation of the final official image of the Emperor.
After several portraits of the Emperor, the first of which dates back to 1530 on the occasion of the imperial coronation in Bologna, Titian practically became his official painter. The Emperor even granted him titles of nobility, but could not get him to move to the court. Titian painted classical depictions, solemn and majestic, in which the Emperor was dressed with military clothing and weapons, a heroic and archaic symbol without allegories, so abundant in the Renaissance.
Titians paintings created a distinctively Austrian image, ending with the Mühlberg equestrian portrait. Charles considered and used art as a tool to cement his sovereignty.
The depictions of Charles V are sober and have no allegories, except for the portrait by Parmigiano on the occasion of his coronation in Bologna. Only in the case of the coins and medals designed by Leone Leoni we can appreciate some symbolism of Charles as Roman Emperor.
Heraldry is very important in the Emperor's depictions, with two very significant symbols. The first is the symbol of the Order of the Golden Fleece, characteristic of the House of Burgundy, and the second is the PLUS ULTRA motto, created in 1517 by the Italian humanist Luigi Marliano on his first trip to Spain to take charge of the country's affairs. To these symbols we must add, after the Aachen and Bologna coronations, the presence of the imperial crown, and sometimes, specific symbols of this title.
The Mühlberg victory over the Lutheran princes on 1547 had important consequences for the imperial depictions. To commemorate this victory, the emperors court lead by his sister Mary of Hungary and cardinal A. Perrenot Granvelle commissioned Titian and Leone Leoni the images that shape the Habsburg image of the dynasty.
In Titians equestrian portrait of 1548, commissioned by Mary of Hungary, the artist was able to summarize in a single picture the chivalresque (Charles V as Miles Christi) and classic features (Charles V as the new Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius) of the Emperor, creating a synthetic and contemporary image that depicts him as a definite hero at a particular time. The statue of Charles V and the Fury, by Leone Leoni, is inspired by Virgils Aeneid and is the best example of a pacifist image of Charles V of stoic inspiration.
Probably suggested by his sister Mary of Hungary, medallist and sculptor Leone Leoni made a series of medals and eight statues of the Emperor's family (the Emperor, his son Philip and his sister Mary of Hungary), as part of an artistic programme derived from the political situation resulting from the familys discussions on the imperial succession. These statues show a clear classic and Roman influence, aimed at supporting the candidacy of his son Philip for the imperial succession.
In Spain, as in the rest of Western Europe, the introduction of the Renaissance was gradual. The emergence of the new decorative repertoire of classical influence, the use of the architectural orders and the treatment of the human figure, soon caught the interest of the artists, many of them trained in Italy. The first changes were only introduced by a minority able to offer a new repertoire, and a few patrons receptive to suggestions they had already seen abroad.
For the first time a Spanish king was also emperor and centre of an international court. The Spanish intellectual, military and religious elite found an international influence. Many works of art were brought into Spain mainly from Italy and the Netherlands, and many dignitaries commissioned portraits from foreign artists. All of this contributed to the development of the fine arts in Spain, and many Spanish artists either in architecture, painting or, especially, sculpture appeared. This was the precedent for the Spanish golden century (seventeenth century).
Nevertheless, Spanish art was almost exclusively religious, for the subjects it depicted and its devotional, catechist, didactic and moralizing function. The greatest Spanish contribution to the artistic debate of the religious image was the complex and sophisticated study of the depiction of emotions and passion. Not for nothing was the Spanish art the art of the Counter-Reformation.
MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES IN THE EUROPEAN ROUTES OF CHARLES V. FINE ARTS AND CHARLES V AS THE PROJECT'S CULTURAL PRODUCT.
A total of 53 museums and art galleries (including religious buildings) from 37 European cities make up the artistic heritage (paintings, sculptures and minor arts) related with the figure of Charles V.
The works of art listed in the appendixes were created in the sixteenth century with a common theme: the figure of the Emperor.
Spain, Belgium, Italy and German are the countries with the largest number of sites and preserved works, although there are also many from France, Austria, the Netherlands, England and Hungary, although these last two were not initially included in the project.
The list of sites that preserve works of art contemporary to the Emperor and related with his figure and image are:
1. Museo del Prado de Madrid
2. Palacio Real de Madrid
3. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza de Madrid
4. Museo Arqueológico Nacional de Madrid
5. Museo Lázaro Galdiano de Madrid
6. Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas de Madrid
7. Academia de San Fernando de Madrid
8. Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid
9. Palacio de Liria (Ducado de Alba) de Madrid
10. Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial
11. Museo de Santa Cruz de Toledo
12. Museo de Ejército de Toledo
13. Museo Nacional de Escultura de Valladolid
14. Real Iglesia de San Miguel y San Julián de Valladolid
15. Catedral de Palencia
16. Catedral de Sevilla
17. Ayuntamiento de Tarazona
18. Museo Regional de Pamplona
19. Palacio de Mirabel de Plasencia
20. Puerta de Santa María de Burgos
21. Iglesia de Santa María de Laredo
22. Museo del Louvre de París
23. Biblioteca Nacional de París
24. Museo Condé de Chantilly
25. Museo Granet en Aix-en-Provence
26. Kunsthistorisches Museum Gemäldegalerie de Viena
28. Galería Borghese de Roma
29. Palacio Viejo de Florencia
30. Museo Cívico de Bolonia
31. Palacio Farnese de Capraola
32. Museo de Capodimonte de Nápoles
33. Museo Cívico de Nápoles
34. Museo Victoria y Alberto de Londres
35. Museo Británico de Londres
36. Museo Nacional de Escocia en Edimburgo
37. Fitzwilliam Museum de Cambridge
38. Catedral de San Miguel y Sta. Gúdula de Bruselas
39. Museo Real de Bellas Artes de Bruselas
40. Stadelijk Museum Hof Van Busleyden de Malinas
41. Catedral de Tournai
42. Lennik, Castillo de Gaasbek
43. Museum Gruuthuse de Brujas
44. Palacio del Frank
45. Museum Plantin-Moretus-Stedelijk Prentenkabinet de Amberes
46. Stedelijk Museum de Ypres
47. Rijksmuseum de Amsterdan
48. Alte Pinakothech de Munich
49. Germäldgalerie de Berlín
50. Bode-Museum de Berlín
51. Deutches Historisches Museum de Berlín
52. Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe de Hamburgo
53. Museo de Bellas Artes de Budapest