The Painters of Emperor Charles V


Throughout his life, various painters painted his portraits, Titian being his painter par excellence

From his earliest years until before his death, Emperor Charles V was portrayed by some of the most famous painters of the day. In particular, one of them, Titian, who has already acquired the status of universal genius.

From his earliest years, Charles V, who was to become emperor, understood that he would be the subject of interest to various painters. The portrait that hangs on the walls of Schloss Ambrass Innsbruck, whose authorship remains anonymous, dates from this period of his childhood.

Shortly afterwards he also posed for Bernhard Striegel, the court portraitist of Maximilian I. In 1515, in particular, he painted a portrait in which he presented the imperial family as members of the family of Christ.

Later, in 1530, it was Jan Vermeijen, the Bearded, who painted the portrait after his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, in which the features that would become general features in later paintings can already be discerned.

During this period, the emperor’s most splendid period, it was Titian who immortalised the emperor in some of his most mythical moments. In 1532, Charles V posed for the first time before the brush of the great Italian painter, who presented him as a young man about to undertake a project as overwhelming as it was exhausting.

One of these mythical moments was the one painted by Titian in 1548 for Maria of Habsburg, the emperor’s sister: his victorious portrait after the battle of Mühlberg. That same year he also took the opportunity to portray him in a pose that foreshadowed what was to happen seven years later, namely his renunciation of the throne and his definitive retirement to the Monastery of Yuste.

Finally, we must not forget the portrait of the emperors, that is, Charles V and Elizabeth of Portugal, which Titian painted years after the latter’s death – and whom, it is believed, he never met – of which a version by Rubens has survived, as the original was lost in the fire at the Alcázar Palace in Madrid in 1734.

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