Equestrian Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian I

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Hans Burgkmair the Elder
German, 1473-1531

Equestrian Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian I, 1508

Woodcut from two blocks in black and gold on vellum
318 x 225 mm (image); 323 x 235 mm (sheet)
Signed recto lower right, in black block, in image: “. H . BURGKMAIR”; dated in image on scroll: “1508”; inscribed upper center, in image under arch: “. IMP.CAES.MAXIMIL.AUG”
Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1961.3

A medieval knight’s prestige, power, and glory were demonstrated by his armored horse, as illustrated in Hans Burgkmair’s 1508 Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Maximilian I. In this imposing woodcut, the emperor wears the type of fluted armor that would later be named for him—Maximilian armor.

— Exhibition label, Arms and Armor: Highlights of the Permanent Collection

This unique woodcut is printed in black and powdered gold inks on vellum. It may be the most opulent result of the Emperor Maximilian’s competition with Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony and his court artist, Lucas Cranach. That contest produced an early form of chiaroscuro printing, a technique using black line blocks and colored tone or blocks for lighting effects. Indeed, as the only known impression of the Equestrian Portrait printed in black and gold on vellum, the Chicago print may well be the dedication impression sent to Frederick.

— Exhibition label, Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life, April 30, 2011–July 10, 2011, Galleries 124–127.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, “Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life,” April 30–July 10, 2011, pp. 20–24 and 99–100, fig. 12 (ill.).

Publication History

A. Hyatt Mayor, Prints and People: A Social History of Printed Pictures (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971), fig. 294.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (New York: H. N. Abrams, Inc., 1970; London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1977 and 1987 ), p. 129 (ill.).

Martha Tedeschi, “Lovers Surprised by Death,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies: Notable Acquisitions, vol. 30, no. 1, (2004), pp. 72–73 and 96 (ill.).

James Snyder, revised by Larry Silver and Henry Luttikhuizen, Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575 (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005), pp. 335, 371, fig. 15.3 (ill.).