Daniel Hopfer: Five German Soldiers (1530)

(Metropilitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

A nice engraving of 5 Landsknechts by the German artist Daniel Hopfer (1470-1536). Landsknechts were formed in 1487 on the orders of Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I as a response to the rise of the Swiss mercenaries. Swiss armies managed to defeat their neighbours such as the Habsburgs, Burgundian and Italian armies in several wars. As such Swiss infantry - fighting in deep column formation, armed with pike and halberd with massed-combat fighting as their favorite tactic - were the most dominant force on the battlefield in the 15th century. Many European powers hired Swiss mercenaries to fight for them (the Pontifical Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, at the Vatican is an exmample of this). Maximilian sought to counter the powerfull Swiss by creating a mercenary fighting force which was modeled after the Swiss but which he could use to bolster his own armies. Were the Swiss relied on hand-to-hand fighting and using little firearms, the landsknechts used more firearms in their ranks. On the battlefield the compact Swiss formations would first be reduced with firepower after which the Landsknecht pike blocks finished the remaining enemy infantry. At the Battle of Marignano (September 13–14, 1515), the Battle of Bicocca (27 April 1522) and the battle of Pavia (24 February 1525) the Swiss were decisively defeated by the German landsknechts who replaced them on the battlefield. The lnadsknechts remained an important force on the battlefield until the end of the 16th century when they were eventually replaced by regular soldiers. The print shows 5 landsknechts. From left to right: a landsknechts with a longsword, a Landsknecht with a transverse flute, a drummer, a standard bearer and a Halberdier (notice the short sword on his belt - a Katzbalger which was a the signature blade of the Landsknecht). The print also gives a good idea of the elaborate dress of the landsknechts with different-colored fabrics, slashed clothing, flat beret-type hats (called Tellerbarrets) with feathers and broad flat shoes. Because of the colorfull appaerance they were also a very popular subject in art. Engraving from 1530.