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  • Chivalry and the Perfect Prince: Tournaments, Art, and Armor at the Spanish Habsburg Court
  • Annemarie Jordan Gschwend
Braden Frieder . Chivalry and the Perfect Prince: Tournaments, Art, and Armor at the Spanish Habsburg Court. Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 81. Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2008. xvi + 236 pp. index. append. illus. map. gloss. chron. bibl. $65. ISBN: 978-1-931112-69-7.

The study of armor, garnitures, helmets, and shields is a field largely ignored by art historians, researched primarily by specialists and curators of arms and armor collections. The recent exhibitions, Heroic Armor of the Renaissance (1998) and Parures triomphales (2003), redress notions regarding the rich symbolism of armor, as does Braden Frieder's Chivalry and the Perfect Prince, a thoroughly researched study of the context and meaning of Renaissance armor and weapons at the Spanish Habsburg court, set against the backdrop of chivalric tournaments, jousts, courtly festivals, entertainments, martial spectacles, and royal entries. Magnificently decorated armor was worn primarily as protection, but also as symbols of [End Page 1286] rank and power. For the warrior in battle, armor had to fit the body perfectly, like a second skin, and by the close of the sixteenth century, armor, in imitation of luxury textiles, became a formal style of dress and fashion at the Habsburg courts: spectacular male body jewelry, as Sarah Schroth underscored in Spain in the Age of Exploration (2004).

In the Renaissance, the collecting of armor was closely linked to both branches —Spanish and Austrian —of the Habsburg dynasty. Augsburg was the leading German center for the manufacture of armor, while in Milan, parade armor for ostentatious display was created in classical, all'antica styles. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, a patron of armorers, introduced Burgundian tournament styles to the Habsburg court, developing new forms of jousting and tournament armor. He established the first royal armory in Innsbruck in 1504, and his grandson, Ferdinand II of Tyrol, was the first Habsburg to systematically collect armor, soliciting renowned contemporaries: generals, princes, and kings for singular pieces to outfit his unique collection, still showcased today at Schloss Ambras (Innsbruck).

Maximilian established the tradition of the emperor-knight in his portraits: armor in these portrayals acquiring a multitude of constructed, abstract meanings. Charles V, Maximilian's grandson, perpetuated the dynastic tradition of commissioning official images in armor, many painted by Titian. Literary traditions of medieval chivalry, the knightly handbook, Jouvencel, romances, Amadis de Gaule, as well as the emperor's autobiographies Der Weiss Kunig and Theuerdank, provided a printed platform for Maximilian's self-imaging as the quintessential Christian knight.

Chapter 2 pursues the concept of the Habsburg prince as perfect knight and defender of the Church, the emblematic implications of the Order of the Golden Fleece and armor impacted with symbols of imperial ideology. Titian's equestrian portrait of Charles V, wearing his actual battle armor at Mühlberg (1548, Prado), and Anthonis Mor's 1557 portrait of his son, Philip II, after the Battle of San Quentin, in armor replete with Burgundian heraldic imagery (1560 replica, El Escorial), epitomize father and son as military leaders, rulers of empire, and defenders of the faith. Ceremonial swords (gladium mundi), gifts from the papal court, symbolically reinforced pontifical support of the Habsburg mission to create a universal Christian empire. This chapter, however, would have benefited from consulting two major studies on Philip's princely education: J. M. March, Niñez y juventud de Felipe II (1941) and J. L. G. Sánchez-Molero, El aprendizaje cortesano de Felipe II (1999).

The focus of this study is Philip II's tour of Charles V's territories in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands (1548-51), the purpose of which was to legitimize Philip's dynastic claims in the Empire. The tour, replete with triumphal entries and pageants, culminated in the 1549 sumptuous festivities held at Binche, sponsored by his aunt, Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands. A knight's game, "The Adventure at the Château Ténébreux," inspired from Amadis de Gaule, marketed Philip as the ideal knight, Beltenbros, who would free the enchanted castle from [End Page 1287] the evil Norabroc, his chivalric mission accomplished with...


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