Dürer and His Contemporaries

Giant Engravings by Giants of Art Triumph of Emperor Maximilian I

1 July 2005 - 1 August 2005

In raising a worthy monument to his rule, the Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), following examples from Antiquity, revived the motifs of the triumphal arch and triumphal procession. He commissioned Albrecht Dürer and other important masters to prepare an imposing and colossal memorial using the woodcut technique, widespread in Europe only a few decades before. The result of this request was the Triumphal Arch of Emperor Maximilian I, a woodcut consisting of 36 sheets measuring 3.5 by 3 metres each and printed using 192 blocks, and the Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I, a series of woodcuts consisting of 135 sheets that together were more than 50 metres long. The depiction, scenographic and creating the illusion of a three-dimensional arch, contains numerous different fields. These record the emperor's family tree, the coats of arms of his territories and the more important episodes in his life, as well as his military victories and political career.

The work was first published in 1517/18. The example to be displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts was made by Adam Bartsch in 1799, using the original blocks. It has been lent by Vienna's Albertina Museum especially for the exhibition.
The triumphal procession was intended to celebrate the deeds and life of the emperor, and to be distributed in large numbers. The finest piece in the series is Dürer's Grand Triumphal Chariot; 2,3 metres wide and half a metre tall, it consists of eight woodcuts and was published separately in 1522. It is a depiction of a vehicle, drawn by twelve horses, in which the seated figure of the emperor is surrounded by allegorical female figures. To supplement the 102 sheets in its possession, the Museum of Fine Arts, has borrowed the finest of the missing sheets from abroad.

The Triumphal Arch and the Triumphal Procession have so far never been exhibited in Hungary in their entirety: only parts of them have been put on show. Their display together introduces the visitor to the unusual and spectacular realisation, by the greatest German graphic artists of the age, of an exciting Renaissance idea.

Curator of the exhibition: Szilvia Bodnár