Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer

Emperor Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Emperor Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Copyright Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) painted an imaginary portrait of Emperor Charlemagne (d. AD 814). Charlemagne is probably wearing the embroidered garments that are still extant and are associated with later rulers.

The Emperor is shown wearing a red gown with appliqué roundels with eagles; a stole of yellow cloth with a foliate design, applied jewels and pearls, and more roundels with eagles; a red mantle or cloak with pearls and gold and red motifs, and ornate gloves. The actual Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman emperors are now in the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer, Vienna, Austria. The red gown in question is a Chinese red silk damask garment (XIII 15), decorated with goldwork and pearls, with black silk roundels. The stole (XIII 8) is in ivory silk with applied silk, embroidered roundels and pearls, while the cloak is probably the Mantle of Roger II of Sicily (XIII 14), which dates to AD 1334. The Imperial Gloves may be based on extant examples (perhaps XIII 11) or ones that are now lost. The Dürer painting is regarded as the earliest known accurate and realistic representation of these Imperial garments.

Above the Emperor, Dürer has painted the German imperial coat of arms and the French coat of arms with the fleur-de-lis.

The painting, together with the imperial insignia, was once a year shown at the Heiltumsweisungen at the Schoppersche Haus, at the Nuremberg market place (Nos. 15-17).

A late sixteenth or early seventeenth century copy of the painting is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria, acc. no. GG 2771, 2014/1432. The garments in this copy are not accurately rendered with respect to the colour of the gown and the decoration on the mantle. The original of the painting is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremburg.

See the TRC blog for 10 June 2016.

Germanisches Nationalmuseum online catalogue (retrieved 6 June 2016).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 6 June 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 30 April 2017 09:04