Visual Arts and Communication of Power

Milan Pelc

Armamentarium Heroicum

Summary of an article published in Gutenberg Jahrbuch 2015, pp 124-141
Armamentarium Heroicum and its Continuatio by Johan Walter, painter from Strasbourg

The Library of the Zagreb Archbishopric (Bibliotheca Metropolitana) holds one special copy of a very famous book by Jakob Schrenck von Notzing, known under the title of Armamentarium Heroicum, containingportraits of eminent military leaders and war heroes (Latin edition 1601, German 1603). The full titles of both editions are:

  • Jakob Schrenck von Notzing: Augustissimorum imperatorum, serenissimorum regum, atque archiducum, illustrissimorum principum, nec non comitum, baronum, nobilium aliorumque clarissimorum virorum ... verissimae imagines, et rerum ab ipsis domi, forisque gestarum succinctae descriptiones... Innsbruck, Ioannes Agricola [Hans Baur] 1601, 2°
  • Jacob Schrenck von Notzing: Der aller durchleuchtigisten und großmächtigen Kayser, durchleuchtigisten unnd großmächtigen Königen & Ertzhertzogen, durchleuchtigen und hochgebornen Fürsten, wie auch Grafen, Herrn vom Adel, und anderer treflicher berühmbter Kriegßhelden, die entweder selbsten General und Feldtobristen in namhafften Feldzügen gewest, oder aber sonsten hohe und ansehliche Befelch getragen, warhafftige Bildtnussen, und kurtze Beschreibungen ihrer so wol in Fridts- als Kriegßzeiten verrichten fürnembsten thaten und handlungen..., Augsburg, Daniel Baur, [1603]. 2°

Emperor Rudolf IIFor more detailed information about the editions, along with synoptic reproductions of their pages, see: Jakob Schrenck von Notzing, Die Heldenrüstkammer (Armamentarium Heroicum) Erzherzog Ferdinands II. auf Schloß Ambras bei Innsbruck. Faksimiledruck der lateinischen und der deutschen Ausgabe des Kupferstich-Bildinventars von 1601 bzw. 1603. Herausgegeben, eingeleitet und erläutert von Bruno Thomas. Biblio Verlag Osnabrück 1981.

Schrenck's book is a collection of engraved portraits accompanied by biographies of illustrious men, who were in the eyes of their contemporaries considered as distinguished military leaders, war strategists and brave soldiers. One of them is Nikola Zrinski who died heroically at the siege of Szigetvár in 1566. The book held high representational value for the members of nobility. A copy of the Latin edition has also been preserved in the Bibliotheca Zriniana (BZ 1), kept at the National and University Library in Zagreb. Its owner, Nikola Zrinski, wrote a Latin epigram on the margin alongside the portrait of his great-great-grandfather, the hero of Szigetvár: Una est et verax summa uirtutis imago / Viuere cum possis non timuisse mori.

Siegfried von KollonitschThe copy from the Metropolitan Library in Zagreb, which belongs to the Bibliotheca Valvasoriana, was first owned by Johann Walter (Walther), a painter from Strasbourg (1604−1679), and contains his ex-libris: Ex libris Ioann(is) Walter(i) Pictoris 1657, with the motto: Een is noodich (Only one is needed). Johann Walter added a supplement to Schrenck's Armamentarium containingportraits of eminent military leaders and war heroes, who lived at the end of the 16th and in the first half of the 17th centuries, under the title: Continuatio delineationis imaginum verissimarum imperatorum, regum, ducum, principum, comitum, baronum nobilium, aliorumque virorum clarissimorum, ut et descriptionis rerum ab ipsis domi forisque laudabiliter gestarum ab anno 1604 seculi huius usque praesentem diem. Hoc est Vorstellung wahrhafter Abbildung deer fürnembsten Keyßer, Könige, Fürsten, Graffen und Herren und anderer berühmbter kriegs Helden so von Zeit deß hochlöblichen Keyßers Rudolpho dem anderen sonderlichen in letzt vergangenem Teutschem Krieg sich hoch berühmbt gemacht und deren gedechtnuß ewig bleiben wird: soviel deren zur Hand gebracht werden mögen accurante Johanne Walthero pictore & cive Argentoratensi. For the supplement of Schrenck’s book, Walter primarily chose military leaders who fought in the Thirty Years’ War (1618−1648), but he also included some commanders from a slightly earlier period. His series of portraits and biographies starts with Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. In most of the portraits, Walter imitates the portrait form from Schrenck's Armamentarium: the commanders are shown in full-length, standing in niches. However, there are some exceptions, such as portrait busts shown in oval frames. All of the portraits were painted by hand in gouache on paper, which makes each of them (in opposition to the engraved portraits from Schrenck's Armamentarium) a unique piece of art. According to the pagination, Walter’s Continuatio initially had at least 49 pages. Unfortunately, many of them have been torned out, leaving only 27 portraits. Some of the portrayed have not yet been identified because the pages containing their biographical data have been torn out. On the other hand, some pages contain only biographical data, while the pages with portraits are missing.

Walter’s self-made supplement of Schrenck’s Armamentarium is a unique example of transferring an older communication pattern (portrait books containing biographies of illustrious men originate from the 16th century) to a new communication framework of representational Baroque portraiture with strong memorial connotations. They are mostly defined by the artist’s choice and his Protestant religious and political orientation. In his choice of portraits, the artist abandoned the model of “collection of curiosities” represented in Schrenck’s book. Armamentarium was initially created as a kind of catalogue of weapons used by illustrious military commanders from the 15th and 16th centuries, which belonged to the Duke of Tyrol, Ferdinand Habsburg’s collection. The commanders’ portraits and biographies were in a way “joined” with the weapons. Walter, on the other hand, had no interest in weaponry. He conceived his supplement as a gallery of portraits with visual and biographical information about the military leaders who played an important role in contemporary events from the so-called “Long War” with the Ottomans (1593–1606) and the Thirty Years’ War. He might have had the ambition to publish his gallery in print, but this has not yet been confirmed. Anyway, Walter's Continuatio contains two portrait engravings, pasted onto the book’s pages as a confirmation that the artist used printed models for his painted portraits. That can be also demonstrated with the portraits of emperor Rudolf II painted after a print by Lukas Schnitzer, and Siegfried von Kollonitsch painted after a print by Egidius Sadeler. Using a restrained, almost monochromatic range of colours, the artist tried to preserve the overall impression of the engraved portraits from the first part of the book.

Visual material used in the article