PRINCES AND ARTISTS: Patronage and Ideology at Four Hapsburg Courts, 1517-1633 by Hugh Trevor-Roper

PRINCES AND ARTISTS: Patronage and Ideology at Four Hapsburg Courts, 1517-1633

Email this review


Whether his subject is modern politics or 16th-century witchcraft, the distinguished English historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper, is never dull and often surprising. Here, he presents four shapely and well-illustrated interpretive essays on the relation of art to politics during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The subject imposed itself through Trevor-Roper's belief that in this age of ""great ideological crisis. . . , great art and great ideas were intimately connected."" He demonstrates this connection very simply by showing how four great Hapsburg patrons demanded art fitted to their temperaments, experiences, and ideologies. Emperor Charles V inspired Titian and Leoni, among others, to portray him as the Champion of the Universal Church and religious reform and then to depict him growing melancholy as his ideals faded amid Protestant heresy, war, and defeat. Philip II of Spain created the ponderous and cold Escorial to house his family's bones, artistic emblems of piety and power, and the mysterious images of Hieronymous Bosch, banishing in the process the impious talents of El Greco to isolation in Toledo. Rudolf II of Bohemia, removed from political strife, surrounded himself with the splendors and curiosities of mannerism and early modern science, forming the most humanistic court in Europe before his communion with ""wizards, alchemists, and Kabbalists"" provoked his family to overthrow him. And the archduke Albert in Brussels sponsored Rubens, ""the painter of the Counter-Reformation,"" who celebrated Loyola and European peace under Catholic rule. These essays are detailed without being complicated, ably introducing order into a complex era of cultural history and infusing new life into its art.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1976
Publisher: Harper & Row