CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Carolus: Kaiser Karl V.

Carolus: Emperor Charles V Exhibition: 9 June - 10 September 2000

From the website of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 24 February 2009

Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) was one of the most important ruling personalities in European history. As the King of Spain, Naples and Sicily, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ruler of Flanders, the Netherlands and large areas of Central and South America, the sun virtually never set on his empire. For the first time, Europe became the center of a world empire. However, Charles failed to achieve unity across the whole continent. With his triumphs and defeats, and his hopes and disappointments, he stood in the midst of change from the Middle Ages to modern times.

The exhibition Charles V, which opens on February 24, 2000 in Bonn on the occasion of the 500th birthday of Emperor Charles V, provides the most comprehensive look until now at this extraordinary era. It was a time of the great discoveries and the Reformation, a time of political, intellectual, and cultural upheavals. The exhibition in Bonn creates a comprehensive picture of Emperor Charles V and his era through nine stops: the Habsburg Dynasty, the empire and the territories of Charles V, the fight for supremacy in Europe, the role of money, schism, the discovery and acquisition of the world, progress in science and technology, the significant role of art as a representation of the emperor, and finally his abdication from the throne.

Outstanding works of art from distinguished international collections – including works by Titian, Dürer, Seisenegger, van Orley, Leoni and Cranach – are the central attraction of the exhibition. The nine large tapestries which depict scenes from the Conquest of Tunis, one of the greatest triumphs of Charles V, are a special highlight of the exhibition. These splendid tapestries, which are owned by the Spanish Crown and have a height of 5.3 meters and an overall length of 110 meters, are considered some of the major works of art of the 16th century. These newly restored works can be admired for the first time outside of Spain in the exhibition in Bonn.

The paintings, sculptures, tapestries, splendid armor, and jewels that were commissioned by Charles V served to glorify his empire and promote the triumphant advance of Renaissance art in all of Europe. Globes, clocks, scientific instruments, models, and rare documents – many of which can be seen for the first time in an exhibition – also attest to the new and revolutionary developments in astronomy, navigation technology, mining, trade, botany, and medicine. They have shaped our view of the world until the present. The exhibition is therefore not only a fascinating look at a past era, but also a reflection of our times.

A “chancellery” furnished with numerous original documents makes Charles V’s political correspondence throughout Europe accessible to visitors, comprising an important instrument of his power. The “chancellery” came into being with the help of the University of Constance.

Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) is a cooperative effort between the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Additional partners in the European project are the Sint-Pieters-Abdij in Ghent and the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Each venue reveals the personality and the era of Charles V from a different perspective. In Ghent, the Burgundian rule of Charles V and the cultural prosperity of Flanders and the Netherlands are a special point of interest. In Bonn, on the other hand, the circumstances surrounding the German Empire, the Reformation, and in particular the significant achievements of the era in terms of intellectual history and the natural sciences play a prominent role. Only around 40 of the nearly 500 works in the Bonn exhibition were previously displayed in Ghent.


Emperor Charles V (1500-1558): Europe’s power and weakness
Lothar Altringer and others
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2000 in Bonn (Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
408 pp., 28 x 24.5 cm., about 408 illustrations, of which 288 in color
Milan (Skira) 2000
ISBN unknown

German edition: Kaiser Karl V. (1500–1558): Macht und Ohnmacht Europas
Milan (Skira) 2000


His Royal Highness, Juan Carlos of Spain
Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau

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