Charles V on Horseback

(1548, Madrid, Prado)
   Titian painted this equestrian portrait of Charles V in 1548 when he spent nine months in Germany rendering the likenesses of the emperor and members of his family. The painting commemorates Charles' victory in the Battle of Mühlberg of 1547 against the Schmalkaldic League formed by Protestant princes to defend themselves from the imperial forces. Since antiquity, the ability to ride a horse was equated with the ability to rule and engage successfully in battle. In this portrait, Titian depicted Charles as a heroic and triumphant ruler. He wears his official military garb with a royal sash across his chest, and holds a lance as if ready for combat. The scene is made more poignant by the crepuscular sky in the background, demonstrating Titian's ability to render natural lighting effects. When Charles abdicated the imperial throne in 1558, he retired to Spain, and there the portrait was studied by Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velazquez, who used it as their prototype for their portraits of members of the Spanish court.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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