TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg

1548
Oil on canvas, 332 x 279 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The painting commemorates the emperor's victory over the Protestant princes at the Battle of Mühlberg on 24 April 1547. The dominant red in the foreground, visible on Charles' helmet decorations, his sash and the horses trim, was the colour of the Catholic faction in the many religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is one of Titian's most dramatic and monumental portraits, conveying not so much the personality of the sitter as the high ideals of his imperial office. At the Battle of Mühlberg the Emperor had defeated the Schmalkadic League of Protestant princes, and in Titian's picture he is portrayed as the archetypal Christian knight victorious against heresy - a kind of modern St George. Apart from the brilliant creation of a memorable image, Titian shows his skill in the consummate handling of textures, such as the diffusion of the evening sunlight through the landscape and the captivating sheen of the armour.