The vain propaganda of Maximilian I

The vain propaganda of Maximilian I

The Emperor Maximilian I (who reigned between 1493-1519) never actually had a triumphal procession as the surviving images of him illustrate. What yes he had was a keen eye to create good exaltation propaganda of his overrated virtues, and he also knew how to hire the best artists to ensure that the image of the great emperor, son of the emperor, glorious in victory, provider of prosperity and culture to his people, would survive in the greatness of his reign and in the years to come after his death.

As often as a middle-aged man is seen driving a Lamborghini, Maximiliano also had his own midlife crisis. His father Frederick III of Habsburg, had become the First Holy Roman Emperor in 1452 and Maximiliano co-governed the empire with his father since the last 10 years of reign. (1483-1493).

Seeing the imperial throne so close, Maximilian decided to seek real connections (true or fictitious) between his ancestors and the great kings and emperors of history. Drew a

line of descent that ranged from the very Hector, son of King Priam of Troy, passing through Julius Caesar, to King Arthur and Charlemagne, including several saints in between.

This generously elaborated family tree that bordered on myth, was intended to demonstrate that despite the fact that the Habsburg house was practically new within the European royal dynasties, they kept a common past with the great heroes of history. In fact, it was these leadership qualities, their chivalric ideals, and their characteristic piety that made this imperial branch so much more prepared for power than the other royal families.

Returning to the simile of men in the midst of the crisis of their forties, mortality was also an issue that weighed heavily on Maximilian's conscience. From 1514 on, he began to have certain extravagant attitudes, such as carrying his coffin with him wherever he went, and it must be remembered that the emperor traveled a lot. He invested large sums of money in immortalizing all his actions, words and everything that had to do with his lineage. And when asked about the huge amounts of coins he used in these projects, Maximiliano replied:

He who does not provide for his memory while he lives will not be remembered after his death, and that person will be forgotten as soon as the bell tolls. Therefore, the money you spend on my memory will not be wasted as it will never be lost.

Taking into account the great value that Maximilian placed on his posthumous legacy and his historical legitimacy as emperorIt is not surprising that in the last decade of his life, Maximilian commissioned three monumental works inspired by the constructions that paid homage to the ancient victorious generals of Rome: The Triumphal Procession, The Great Triumphal Chariot, and the Arc de Triomphe.

The engraver Hans Burgkmair started working in the Triumphal procession in 1512. It took as its motif scenes from the life and military victories of Maximilian, illustrated with a long horde of musicians, hunters, standard bearers, courtiers, carriages with exotic luggage, Habsburg ancestors, knights and a huge and majestic imperial chariot. The original paintings were created by Albrecht altdorfer, in 109 large sheets of parchment that together reached more than 100 meters long.

The works are not only beautiful, but also have turned out to be a very valuable resource for historians can study the musical instruments, heraldry, clothing and weapons of that time.

Maximiliano liked to record his great military successes through prints and woodcuts, whose authors were illustrious artists of the moment such as Burgkmair and Altdorfer, but without a doubt the greatest teacher of them all was Albrecht dürer.

The German artist was also the creator of The Arc de Triomphe and the Great Triumphal Chariot commissioned by the emperor, although only the first was finished before his death. The woodcuts of the triumphal procession and the Arch of Triumph, were the largest woodcut prints ever produced. These engravings were meant to be hung on the walls as if they were giant billboards announcing the wonders of the emperor.

Sadly, half of the original sheets of The Triumphal Procession have disappeared, although some of them are still preserved, more specifically those between 49 and 109. Currently they belong to the permanent collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna, (Austria), which also has many of the original engravings used to make the reproduction copies. These sheets are kept in good condition, the colors still remain bright, and the details are remarkably visible. These works are seldom brought to light, although in 1959 a public exhibition was held on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Maximilian's death.

Fortunately, now you can see these engravings, which measure up to a total of 54 meters in the Albertina, which is making a new exhibition whose title is: Emperor Maximilian I and the Age of Dürer.

On his deathbed in 1519, Maximilian denied all the splendor and fictitious glory that he had purchased. He began to harbor an immense panic, to the Judgment to which God would subject him for his proud life consumed by greed and after receiving the last rites, he abdicated all his titles and ordered that his body be mutilated after his death. They had to cut his hair, break his teeth and whip his back. He was buried in a simple tomb in the Cathedral of St. George in the castle of Wiener Neustadt (northwestern Austria) where he was born. Forty years later, his grandson the Emperor Ferdinand I he would build a church (the Hofkirche) with a cenotaph made in Innsbruck, in memory of Maximilian.

Despite that sudden regret that befell him just before his death, the political and military efforts of Maximilian's reign would ensure for centuries the power of the Habsburg crown within Europe, and it is that the decisions that the emperor made throughout his life, would have a great relevance in Western history.

We see, for example, that her marriage to Mary of Burgundy, would largely mark what we know today as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and a considerable chunk of northern France. The union of your child Philip I the Fair, with Juana de Castilla (later known as Juana la Loca, because according to popular gossip, she carried the corpse of her deceased husband everywhere she passed and she did so for years after Felipe died of typhoid fever) gave rise to the birth of her son Carlos V who would become the King of Spain and emperor of the Holy German Empire at the same time.

Carlos V would be the one who ordered to sack Rome in 1527 and imprison the Pope to prevent him from granting the nullity of the marriage of the King of England Henry VIII with his wife (and Carlos's aunt), Catherine of Aragon. Carlos's son would become King Felipe II of Spain, King of England during his marriage to the Queen Mary I and that he would be the owner of the largest army that had been known in Europe, which would finally end up defeated in a conflict against the kingdom of Isabel I, as a failed attempt by Spain to reconquer England.

The Spanish line of the Habsburgs would die in 1700 with Charles II The bewitched, who due to serious genetic malformations, could not even give a successor to the crown of Austria.

Video: Maximilian I of Bavaria: The Great Elector