AACHEN, Hans von
(b. 1552, Köln, d. 1615, Praha)

Portrait of Emperor Rudolf II

1590s
Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Rudolph II (1552-1612) was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. He became King of Hungary in 1572 and King of Bohemia in 1575. Following the death of his father he also became Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria. His reign was a troubled time of great religious conflicts coupled with the external menace of the Turks. Unfortunately, politics was not a great interest of his. Instead he was familiar with a number of languages and was devoted to art and science, the latter including alchemy and astrology, a highly fashionable preoccupation at that time. He was also fascinated by magic and the occult. At the end of the 1590s mental illness rendered him incapable of governing his empire, which by that time was torn by disputes between Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements. As a result, in 1611, he was forced to cede the crown of Bohemia to his brother Matthias and he died soon afterwards.