Aegidius Sadeler (Netherlandish, ca. 15681629), after Hans von Aachen (German, 15521616)
Engraving; 13 1/8 x 9 7/8 in. (33.5 x 25 cm)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1951 (51.501.6469)
This allegorical bust-length portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was engraved by Aegidius Sadeler after a painting by Hans von Aachen. Wearing the victor's laurel crown and dressed in armor with a clasp bearing the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Rudolf II is represented as a triumphant emperor. He is described in the inscription surrounding the oval portrait as Augustus. The eagle and fish-tailed goat at the top of the print are emblems that were indeed used by the first Roman emperor, as well as by Rudolf's illustrious, more immediate predecessors. Bracketing the portrait are personifications of Rudolf's enlightened reign. At left, Hermathena, standing on a plinth inscribed constabit (strong), represents the rich humanist culture presided over by the emperor in Prague; while at right, the figure of Time, standing on a plinth inscribed instat (continuous), represents the never-ending promise of his rule. In the section below, two shackled Turkish prisoners, subdued by Jupiter's thunderbolts, symbolize the inevitable defeat of Rudolf's enemies. There were numerous variations of this official court portrait, with slight changes in the composition and iconography. Sadeler, who worked successively as imperial engraver for Rudolf II, Matthias, and Ferdinand II, was awarded a license to publish his prints in 1601, prompting the increased circulation of glorifying portraits like this one.