Bernhard Strigel: Portrait of Maximilian I & Bianca Maria Sforza (1505-1510)

(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria)

Two paintings by the German artist Bernhard Strigel (1461 – 1528). Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) was the son of emperor Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal. The reign of Maximilian was marked the expansion of the influence of the Habsburg empire. Before Maximilian became emperor he married with Mary of Burgundy, the only child of duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy who was killed at the battle of Nancy. With this marriage Maximilian managed to add the Burgundian territories, which stretched from the Netherlands to Switzerland, to the Holy Roman empire. This was however fiercely disputed by France which regarded Burgundy as a French province. This dispute was fought over in many wars between France and the Habsburgs empire (the conflict over these lands between France and Germany lasted for more then 500 years until the second World War). In several battles the Swiss managed to defeat Maximilian and declared their independence from the Holy Roman empire. Faced with the powerful Swiss armies, Maximilian ordered the formation of the landsknechts in 1487 to counter the Swiss. These landsknechts would in time form the core of the Habsburg armies which managed to defeat the Swiss and which became the most important infantry force on the battlefield for more then 100 years until they were eventually replaced by the dreaded Spanish tercios. Depicted on the right is Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510), the second wife of Maximilian, who the daughter of duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan. The marriage between Maximilian and Bianca in 1494 was arranged by Ludovico Sforza, uncle of Bianca who had just became duke of Milan and who wanted recognition and protection against France. The marriage was an unhappy one. Although Bianca became pregnant several times, no children lived long enough. Maximilian regarded his wife as uneducated, talkative, naive, wasteful with money, and careless and after 1500 paid no attention to her. The couple lived separately after that and when Bianca died in 1510, Maximilian did not attend her funeral or even dedicate a gravestone to her. Both paintings don't form a set but were 
separately made in period 1505-1510.