New exhibition - The Triumph of Maximilian I

Mar 31 2011

The Triumph of Maximilian I is an exhibition showing an incredible series of woodcut prints tracing the Emperor Maximilian's life in the early 16th century. Maximilian I was born in 1459 in Austria and became Holy Roman Emperor in 1493. After marrying Mary of Burgundy in 1477 he took over the reign of many parts of the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France and was named the 'last of the knights' because of his courage on the battlefield.

The Triumph of Maximilian I, Hans Burgkmair and Others © The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle UniversityThe prints illustrate different aspects of Maximilian's life through the form of a procession. These include his armies, treasures, musicians and the people he ruled over. Originally taking the form of miniature paintings, Maximilian asked artists such as the printmaker Hans Burgkmair to create woodcut prints of the painted images so they could be mass-produced and seen by a wide audience. About 50 prints are on display from the overall series of 137.

I think the detail of the prints are fantastic – they are really inspiring to look at, especially as they are so old and offer a unique first hand insight into 16th century life. My favourite aspects are the blank text boxes/banners that are in many of the prints which were originally designed to have writing in them. Maximilian did dictate descriptions to his secretary at the time but following his death in 1519, these were never added to the prints so they appear blank. I think this actually makes them more fascinating as they look strangely contemporary, almost like 16th century cartoons!

I loved thinking about the layout of this show and choosing the paint colour for the walls. I chose a rich but vibrant green for the walls called emerald delight – I wanted to emulate the outdoor aspect of the procession shown in the prints along with its royal importance. Everything went to plan but one of the labels didn't make it onto the walls until about 30 seconds before the exhibition opened which was a little nerve wracking!

The Triumph of Maximilian I by Hans Burgkmair and Others is on at the Graves Gallery until 14 August 2011. Full details on the exhibition can be found  here
© The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University


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