Emperor Charles V on Horseback at Mühlberg

Titian is one of the great artists of all time. Along with Veronese and Tintoretto, he was one of the leading exponents of 16th century Venetian painting. He was very highly regarded by the Spanish Kings Charles V and Philip II, who both made him their court painter. He produced magnificent portraits of them both, and of Charles V’s wife, Empress Elizabeth, which can also be admired here at the Prado.

This painting recreates a historic event that took place in 1547, when the Emperor defeated the German Protestants at the battle of Mühlberg. This composition of a mounted rider was inspired by Ancient Rome and, more specifically, by the statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback which stands in Rome.

Titian painted a black horse so that the red tones of its ornate cloths would stand out. The colours also matched the plumes on the Emperor’s helmet. The autumnal evening light emphasizes the colours of the painting.

The horse is gently pacing, as in a parade. Charles V’s beautiful suit of armour can be seen today at the Royal Palace in Madrid. Have you noticed the different textures that Titian has achieved with his brush? This was one of the artist’s specialities. On his breastplate, along with the red sash, the Emperor also wears the Order of the Golden Fleece, which is a symbol of the voyage of the Argonauts, who went in search of the Golden Fleece. It was the highest ranking order of nobility in Europe, and Charles V was its Great Master. The current King of Spain holds the same rank and has the same medallion.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns