(active 1360-65)

Portrait of Duke Rudolf IV of Austria

Mixed technique on parchment mounted on spruce, 49 x 31 cm
Erzbischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, Vienna

Stylistic analyses of the portrait of Rudolf IV have regularly spotlighted its links with the Prague court art of just a few years earlier, and with its leading protagonist, Master Theoderic. The Vienna painting also features other innovations derived from Bohemian painting. In view of the numerous artistic exchanges taking place between Bohemia and Austria, however, it is equally conceivable that the portrait was the work of an Austrian artist.

Although this portrait was later hung near Rudolf's tomb, there is no reference to his death in the inscription. That it may have been commissioned by Rudolf himself is further indicated by the fact that he is portrayed as an archduke {Archidux, as the Latin inscription reads), a rank which Rudolf unlawfully awarded himself. If the painting was indeed executed before 1365, it is the oldest autonomous portrait in the history of German art. It was admittedly intended less to capture an accurate likeness, however, than to reinforce Rudolf's political status. The shape of the bow evidently cites more or less exactly the bow in the crown of the Bohemian king Charles IV, whose daughter Catherine Rudolf married in 1357. The solidity of the areas of flesh contrasts abruptly with the treatment of the blonde hair and in particular the very two-dimensional portrayal of the serrated hat and the coat.