1523 Parma - Ferrara 1567

The Army of Emperor Charles V Crosses the Elbe before the Battle of Mühlberg on April 25, 1547 1551

engraving; 535 x 375 mm (21 1/16 x 14 ¾ inches)

Bartsch, vol. 15, p. 289, no. 18 first state (of three)

Rosemarie Mulcahy, “Enea Vico’s Proposed Triumphs of Charles V,” in: Print Quarterly, vol. 19, 2002, pp. 331–340

A fine impression of the first state with the monogram IBM in the center below (for Giovanni Battista Mantovano), before its substitution with the letters IB and, ultimately, the removal of all monograms.

Rosemarie Mulcahy has produced important research on the genesis of this monumental plate. She published the surviving letters between the engraver and Cosimo de Medici in which Vico proposes in August of 1549 a series of large-format (foglio reale) prints intended to celebrate the life and the victorious battles of Charles V. He asked Cosimo for financial help with the realization of this plan. Cosimo’s support and an introduction from Pietro Aretino, a friend of Vico, enabled the artist to go to Augsburg in the fall of 1550 and even to meet the emperor in person. Upon his return to Venice in January 1551, Vico engraved the Battle of Mühlberg. For the central scene he used a drawing by Giovanni Battista Scultori (1503–Mantua–1575), a Mantovan artist recommended to him by Cardinal de Granvelle, whom he had met in Augsburg. The plate was finished in April 1551 and it remained the only one of the series ever to be completed.

The project was abandoned soon afterward and there was certainly never any edition printed from the plate. After Charles’s abdication from the throne in 1555, interest in such an image probably diminished even further. We have been able to trace only five impressions of this print in public collections: two first states, in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and one second state in the British Museum in London; there are also impressions at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden.