As one of the most active scholars on the art patronage of Emperor Maximilian I Habsburg, I rejoice in this systematic, thoroughly researched study of the ruler’s most ambitious and encompassing art work, the Arch of Honor. Originally a dissertation, directed by Profs. Haussherr and Anzelewsky, at the Freie Universität, Berlin, it more than fulfills its role as the true completion of the work of the late nineteenth-cen tury scholars who published editions of these Habsburg glories, especially Eduard Chmelarz (JKSAK, 1886) and Franz Schestag (JKSAK, 1883). This kind of careful study of a single monument has become rare today and is all the more welcome for its attention to a German print ensemble whose sheer scale usually resists such full analysis and whose hybrid forms usually fail to elicit sympathetic readings by modern observers, especially Dürer specialists.
Composed as a mural of coordinated woodcuts by the Dürer workshop in Nuremberg, the Arch remains a complex mixture of both imagery and ideas. Schauerte begins with an overview of the object and earlier literature, but his first close inspection is dedicated to the genesis of the project, which he localizes not only with Maximilian’s own ambitions to establish his legacy, beginning in 1502 with early plans for his own tomb, but also with his new sense of need for memorials after the loss of his son, Philip the Fair, in 1506 and his own provision of a tomb for his father, Emperor Frederick III, in Vienna (completed 1513). These connections of the Arch to his tomb projects are often overlooked by print specialists, so it is noteworthy that the final disposition of the tomb in Innsbruck was enhanced by reliefs derived from the scenes of the Arch, added to the bronze statuary by Maximilian’s successor in Austria, Ferdinand I (who also ordered prints made from the completed blocks of the woodcut Triumphal Procession). Schauerte claims, imaginatively, that this posthumous arrangement in fact reverts to the original tomb plan for a tumba with reliefs. He also reconstructs an original three-towered castle façade design from the Castilian model (still echoed in the final flanking towers of the Arch by Altdorfer). He further calls attention to a neglected sketch design for an unexecuted apsidal fresco cycle of spiritual deeds at Wiener Neustadt, which might have produced a simpler, revised grave site. Even if one does not follow all of his reconstructed processes, Schauerte considers the evolving, interactive and compound forms of the Arch as much as its final shape.
Dürer’s participation in the project has not been re-examined since Meder, but this study chiefly revisits the written sources, reprinted, rather than the drawings and connoisseurship issues. Schauerte concludes that the genealogy was less responsible for delays after 1515 than the side additions by Altdorfer (which reprise the shape of the Castilian castle towers) and their relevant texts, as well as the succession of Charles as King of Spain (signaled at the top of the family tree and by the castle shape itself in this argument).
Extended analysis of the components of the Arch completes the study in depth. Decorative elements are compared to the marginal imagery of Maximilian’s Prayerbook for their inventive playfulness and as hieroglyphs and devices are compared to nascent emblems or to allegories for their Renaissance emphasis on complex layers of meaning, outlined only in part in the explanatory text by Stabius. Here Schauerte builds upon the pioneering insights of Giehlow.
But the real strength of this study is in its holistic sense of the Arch as part of the memorial projects conceived by Maximilian, especially his other evolving fixation, his own tomb, as well as his chief commemoration of the son who predeceased him, Philip the Fair, king of Spain. Numerous subtle and informed considerations about the use of antique forms and their relation to contemporary practices of royal ceremonies also abound throughout this analysis. Finally, the volume concludes with indispensable and meticulously assembled documentation: texts, sources, and catalogues of both the blocks preserved in the Albertina as well as the published editions (with watermarks). Schauerte deserves the lasting thanks of all who study this rich artwork, brought into sharp focus for the first time in almost a century.
University of Pennsylvania