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Entry of Karl V into Antwerp

Hans Makart, 1878
Collection: 
Kusthalle, Hamburg

Studies

c. 1876-77, oil on canvas, 65.5 x 105.3 cm, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

1875, oil on canvas, 127 x 240 cm, Vienna, Belvedere Museum

 

According to contemporary critic Oscar Berggruen the depiction of female beauty was Makart’s main goal in Entry of Karl V:

 “What ultimately remains as the visual point are a number of female figures, some of them naked and some of them clothed. This vast piece of canvas has only been painted in order to present these women; it has no other purpose. That is the reason why the emperor and his empire have ben evoked, the reason why all the costume collections have been plundered, and why all the patrician maindens of the ‘most magnificent city of Christendom’ have been positioned, naked, between horses and lansquenets on the rough cobblestones, whose dirt the delicate feet of the lovely creatures must tread.”

 Oscar Berggruen, “Makart’s Einzug Karl’s V. in Antwerpen,” Beiblatt zur Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst vol. 13, no. 28 (25 April 1878): 444.

Another contemporary, Robert Stiassny considered Entry

 “[A]n aesthetic monstrosity…this vicious nudity, which flaunts its riches on the whole with more naïve sweetness than frivolous awareness, reflects a mood of reconciliation onto the picture’s weaknesses – here Makart, the painter, has played his trump card.’”

 

 Cited in Werner Hoffman, “Makart: A Pioneer?,” ?” in Agnes Husslein-Arco and Alexander Klee, eds., Makart, Painter of the Senses (Munich: Prestel, 2011), 14.

 

According to Menzel: 

“’The genius [Makart], unaffected by all that, was concerned about nothing except his colors.’”

and

“Another artist might perhaps have taken into consideration that in such northern climes the almost-naked beauties surrounding the emperor might have been shivering with cold, or believed that he should indicate that the senses of one or another of the numerous onlookers in the picture were aroused by the naked charms of the noble maidens – but in Makart’s work there is no trace of that.’”

Cited in Martina Sitt and Marvin Altner, “Makart’s Female Figures: Representatives of Pure Sensuality or Nudes in Academic Form?” in Agnes Husslein-Arco and Alexander Klee, eds., Makart, Painter of the Senses. Munich: Prestel, 2011, 67 and 74.

 

An anonymous American art critic praised Makart’s Entry of Karl V into Antwerp and commented on differences in attitudes toward nudity in Europe and the US:

“No picture attracted more attention, or was more worthy of it, at the past Paris Exposition, than Makart’s Entry of Charles V into Antwerp. This is a true historical picture, in rendering which the artist has taken few liberties with the record. The subject is admirable for the artist’s style of painting and love of opulent display of color. The incident of this great picture is described in Albrecht Dürer’s Journal of a Voyage to the Netherlands, in which he says: ‘I gave a sou for a little book describing the entry into Antwerp, where the king received a costly triumph. The city gates were ornamented in the most costly manner; there was music and great rejoicing, and beautiful young maidens whose like I have seldom seen.’ Dürer told Melancthon, his friend, in 1526, that ‘he looked at these young women very attentively and closely, and without shame, because he was a painter.’ It is supposed that these maidens were nude, and that they were grouped on a balcony, or in some tableau. For artistic reasons of his own Hans Makart saw fit to introduce them into the procession, walking in front, or by the sides of the king’s horse, bearing presents in their hands. But he did not go as far as the historical record would allow, and gave them sufficient drapery to satisfy, one might suppose, the most fastidious public guardian of modern American morals! Although this great work is universally admired in Europe, and a sketch of it, made by the artist himself, has appeared in the Gazette des Beaux Arts, a splendid imported photography, exhibited in New York, was suppressed by an official who determines what is proper and what is not for the free people of America to look at. If the same picture was reproduced in The Aldine, it might subject it to suppression in the mails, and our readers would be deprived of that issue. Perhaps it is better not to run the risk.”

Anonymous, “Hans Makart,” The Aldine, vol. 9, no. 9 (1879): 285-6.

About the Artist

Born: Salzburg, 28 May 1840
Died: Vienna, 3 October 1884
Nationality: Austrian