Emperor Maximilian I with His Family

Bernhard Strigel1516/1520

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Bernhard Strigel, the last known member of a successful family of artists from the Allgäu region of southern Germany, held a succession of honorary civic offices in Memmingen beginning in 1512. A much sought-after portraitist, he was soon appointed imperial court painter and finally raised to the peerage. His painting portrays Emperor Maximilian I and his first wife, Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482), next to their son Philip the Fair, who had died in 1506. Below them are Philip’s sons Charles (in the middle) and Ferdinand (on the left).To the right of them is Louis of Hungary, whom Maximilian had adopted in 1515. The inscriptions give a second meaning to the portraits: they identify the subjects as members of the family of Mary Cleophas, who had been venerated as one of the sisters of the Virgin Mary since the early 15th century. Originally the other members of the Virgin’s family were on the back of the panel (removed in 1919; KHM, GG 6411) and on another part (now in private ownership) of the work, which was originally conceived as a diptych. How the work was commissioned is not completely clear. It is known for certain that Johannes Cuspinian, a Humanist advisor to Maximilian, commissioned the second panel and the back of the first. But perhaps – and this appears more plausible – he commissioned the entire diptych, including the present painting, in 1520, five years after the double wedding that he had helped to negotiate. The selection of figures is certainly a reference to that event. As a proxy for one of his grandsons Maximilian married the sister of Louis, Anna of Hungary, in Vienna in 1515. A reciprocal gesture for the decision taken in 1507 that Louis would marry Archduchess Maria, the sister of Charles and Ferdinand, this successful move on the dynastic chessboard was solemnly celebrated with a double wedding in Vienna and guaranteed the emperor’s successors the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary until 1918.
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Emperor Maximilian I with His Family
  • Creator: Bernhard Strigel
  • Creator Lifespan: 1460/1528
  • Creator Nationality: german
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Memmingen
  • Creator Birth Place: Memmingen
  • Date Created: 1516/1520
  • Location Created: Vienna, Austria
  • Style: German Renaissance
  • Provenance: Most likely painted in Vienna on the occasion of the "First Congress of Vienna". 1520 in possession of the imperial historian Johannes Cuspinian; imperial collections since the 1690s.
  • Place Part Of: Austria
  • Physical Dimensions: w604 x h728 cm
  • Inventory Number: GG 832
  • Artist Biography: Strigel probably trained in the family workshop in Memmingen. The relationship between this artist and Hans Strigel the Younger remains unresolved, although it is thought that Hans may have been Bernhard’s father or uncle. In many cases Bernhard’s motifs were derived from prints by Schongauer and from works by the Ulm school, which was the principal artistic centre in southern Germany at this period. Strigel worked in the abbey church at Blaubeuren and was influenced by Netherlandish art at this period, particularly Dieric Bouts. A clear example of Bouts’ influence on Strigel is evident in The Adoration of the Magi (Stadtmuseum, Memmingen). One of his most important works is the Altarpiece of the Virgin, executed for the monastery at Salem (now in Salem castle). The monumental treatment of the objects and their arrangement in space reflects Strigel’s knowledge of the work of Dürer. His most important patron was the Emperor Maximilian who summoned the artist to Vienna in 1515 to paint the portraits of the Habsburg-Jagellon marriage. Strigel’s last paintings reveal the influence of Hans Holbein and the Danube School © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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