The Art of Power

Schloss Ambras Innsbruck
Innsbruck, Austria
Until 7 October 2018

The Art of Power focuses on three remarkable women who set standards in courtly culture within the Habsburg dynasty: Archduchess Margaret, governor of the Burgundian Netherlands (1480–1530), Archduchess Mary, Queen of Hungary (1505–1558) and Archduchess Catherine, Queen of Portugal (1507–1578). For the first time, an exhibition focuses on Habsburg female patronage in the Renaissance. Thus, this special exhibition on three powerful women, a daughter and two granddaughters of Emperor Maximilian I, sheds light on an unknown side of patronage in the history of art.

This high-calibre exhibition presents some one hundred works from important European collections from Hungry, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, including out-standing objects from Schloss Ambras Innsbruck and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna: Kunstkammer objects, paintings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, valuable gemstone jewellery and objects from foreign countries that had not been seen before in Europe.

Art is a medium which transmits ideas without the need for words, leaving viewers with lasting impressions. Tapestries, portraits, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, valuable jewels, and objects from new foreign lands were the media used to define social status, rank and wealth in the Renaissance. The men of the Habsburg house became impressive collectors in the 16th century: Maximilian I, Archduke Ferdinand II, Maximilian II, Philip II and Rudolf II.

More recently, the leading role of prominent Habsburg women as cultural agents involved in the acquisition, collecting, display and ownership of collections has been given more recognition. As political representatives of emperors and as wives of ruling kings across Europe, these women had access to the best artists of their time, at the same time satisfying their passion for collecting by resorting to international dealers and intermediaries.
The outstanding art collection of the Archduchess Margaret of Austria (1480- 1530), daughter of Emperor Maximilian I and Governess of the Netherlands, based in Mechelen (Malines) is regarded today as the forerunner and model for younger generations of women in her family.
Mary of Hungary (1505-1558), younger sister of Emperor Charles V, grew up at Margaret’s court, experienced her aunt’s collection firsthand. As widow and later regent, Mary inherited Margaret’s library and implemented the idea for a Habsburg dynastic portrait gallery in Brussels. She quickly became a leading patron, building palaces and collaborating closely with such painters and sculptors as Anthonis Mor, Leone Leoni und Jacques DuBroeucq.

Catherine of Austria (1507-1578), Queen of Portugal, the youngest sister of Emperor Charles V, was exposed to other collecting trends in Spain and Portugal. She specialized in the importation of exotica and luxury wares from Africa, Asia and the New World. She supplied the Habsburg family network with foreign objects and wild animals.