Charles V and Tiziano

Tiziano portrayed the Emperor Charles V on numerous occasions. The last was in 1554

After they met in 1530, on the occasion of Charles V’s coronation as emperor, a relationship was established between the two, resulting in a series of paintings that summarise the life of the emperor himself.

1530, Bolonia. Charles V was crowned emperor by His Holiness Clement VII. The emperor took advantage of the occasion to meet one of the most famous painters of the time, with whom he would end up forging a great relationship. He was Tiiziano Vecellio di Gregorio, better known by his artist name of Tiziano.

At the time, Tiziano was a painter known and frequented by the leading Italian families and a close friend of Charles V’s former ambassador, Girolamo Adorno. An artist whom the emperor wanted to meet above all things. He wanted a portrait of him.

Tiziano was an artist who attracted as much praise as criticism, as his paintings – especially his agile, violent brushstrokes – were not to everyone’s liking. It was not until 1530 that the brilliant Italian painter immortalised the emperor for the first time. All that remains of that work is the memory of Rubens’ copy, as the original, like so many others, was lost in the fire at the Alcázar in Madrid in 1734.

The two works coincided again in 1533, when Tiziano portrayed the emperor with a dog, based on a portrait by Jacob Seisenegger, in which a monarch dressed as a courtier caresses a dog, a symbol of the emperor’s loyalty and protection to his people.

In 1548, to commemorate the victory at the battle of Mühlberg, Tiziano portrayed the emperor on horseback. Fifteen years had passed since their first meeting and the emperor’s image had changed as much as his political situation at the head of the Holy Roman Empire.

Shortly afterwards he portrayed the emperor again, in this case in the company of his wife, the now deceased Elizabeth of Portugal, in which Tiziano strips him of any military garb or luxurious attire to present him as a man tired of ruling after more than thirty years in power and wishing to retire from the world to put his soul at peace with God.

It should also be noted that Tiziano painted a portrait of the Empress Elizabeth that was sent to him by Maria, the emperor’s sister. This portrait displeased him as he considered that it bore no resemblance to his deceased wife, so Tiziano retouched it when the emperor took it with him on his German campaigns.

In 1554 Tiziano completed the last of the works he painted for Emperor Charles V: The Glory, the motif of which is the Last Judgement. The Emperor enjoyed it for only four years, as he died on the night of 21 September 1558. The painting shows the most important people in his life: his wife Isabella, on his right, and his children, Philip and Joanna, behind her. His sisters Maria of Austria, Queen consort of Hungary, and Eleanor, Queen of France and Portugal, also appear. His brother Ferdinand and his nephew Maximilian, who were at loggerheads over the imperial succession, are not shown.

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