Maximillian I with his Family by Bernhard Strigel

Maximillian I with his Family by Bernhard Strigel (1516)

One of the things I aim to do with My Daily Art Display is to offer up a painting by an artist which may be unknown to many.  Today’s featured artist is Bernhard Strigel, the German painter who straddled the late Gothic and Renaissance period in painting.  He was born in Memmingen, in the Allgäu region of southern Germany in 1460 and came from a family of talented artists.   His early paintings concentrated on religious subjects but then later in his life he turned to portraiture.  It was possible that his abandonment of religious paintings was on account of his Protestant sympathies.  In 1515 he left Germany and went to Vienna where he became court painter to Emperor Maximillian I.  Shortly after he had completed today’s painting he left the court of Maximillian and returned back to Memmingen but he still continued to work on commissions for Maximillian whilst back in Germany.  He died in Memmingen in 1528, aged 67.

Today’s work of art is Emperor Maximillian I with his Family which Strigel painted in 1515 and now hangs in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna.  This painting was commissioned by the Emperor and is one of the earliest group portraits in Germany.

Emperor Maximillian was a great arranger of marriages for the greater territorial glory of his Austro-Hungarian House of Habsburg.  He gained the Low Countries and Burgundy by marrying Mary of Burgundy and he married off his son Philip the Handsome to Joanne of Castille who was heir to the Spanish throne.  However Philip died of typhoid at the age of 26 and his wife was driven mad with grief. Because of her mental state of mind,  the Spanish throne passed to his Philip’s young son Charles who became Charles I of Spain in 1516 and three years later Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire when Maximillian died.

In the painting we see Maximillian on the left.  His first wife, Maria of Burgundy, who died over thirty years before this painting was commissioned, is on the right.  Their son Philip the Fair, who died ten years before the painting was completed, is in the centre.  In the foreground are two of Maximillian’s grandchildren, Ferdinand I and Charles V as well as Maximillian’s adopted son Ludwig, who as heir to the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia  later became Ludwig II of Hungary.  Thus the painting refers to the double betrothal of 1515 in Vienna which sealed the union between the Habsburgs and the Magyar Jagellon Royal Family

The painting is an example of the way in which Maximillian used his family to carry out his political plans and his desire to document his intentions in works of art.

For those of you who just want to see a painting, I apologise for the history lesson !!!