Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Emperor Rudolf II as the harvest god Vertumnus, 1590/91

Good. Better. Habsburg.


‘Happy is he who forgets’ was certainly not the motto of Emperor Maximilian I, a monarch who did his utmost to ensure he would not be forgotten. As one of the first ‘media politicians’ he made use of the printed book and woodcut in order to preserve his gedachtnus (memory) for posterity: the monumental woodcuts Triumphzug and Ehrenpforte – planned by his humanist ‘spin doctor’ advisors and executed by renowned artists – were intended to be preserved as huge fold-out albums in princely libraries, archives and treasuries of the Empire. His successors also fostered the notions of status, display, the tradition of emperorship and the glorification of the Habsburg family in their patronage of the arts – whether in the form of prints and engravings or ‘vegetable’ portraits.

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