- Museum number
- Object: Der Weiß Kunig
Edition of 235 woodcuts by Leonhard Beck (122), Hans Burgkmair (111), Leonhard Schäufelein (2), and Hans Springinklee (2), illustrating a fictious biography of Emperor Maximilian I, first printed around 1514-1516, the original text written/edited by Marcus Teitzsaurwein, both text and images later edited by Hoffstätter and first published in Vienna, 1775.
Woodcut and letterpress
- Production date
1775 (first book edition)
1514-1516 (first proofs)
Height: 221 millimetres (woodcut, average)
Width: 195 millimetres (woodcut, average)
- Curator's comments
- 'Der Weisskunig' (the white, or wise, king) is the most extensive of the Emperor Maximilian's unfinished works. It is an idealised biography of Maximilian, with two early sections on the life of his parents, and his birth and education, which were compiled by Maximilian's secretary, Marx Treitzsaurwein, and a longer third section dealing with the political history of Maximilian's reign, for which the Emperor himself was primarily responsible. All the characters are given pseudonyms, many of which are derived from their heraldic arms; thus for example, Maximilian is the Young White King, Frederick III the Old White King, and the King of France is the Blue King. The text was dictated by Maximilian to Treitzsaurwein and has survived in various manuscripts in the Österreichische National-bibliothek in Vienna (see 'Maximilian I, 1459-1519', exh. cat., Vienna, 1959, pp.26f, with literature). Its confused state is reflected in the woodcut illustrations which were carried out at Augsburg under Peutinger's supervision. Some subjects were cut twice, others were omitted, and some represent subjects not in the text, as far as it was completed. Out of 236 illustrations, of which 223 of the blocks have survived (Vienna, Albertina), Burgkmair was responsible, according to Dodgson, for the design of 121. The other main designer was Leonhard Beck; Hans Springinklee and Hans Schäufelein contributed a few designs each to the project (see 1837,0616.308). The blocks were cut between 1514 and 1516 by a group of cutters supervised by Jost de Negker, and a few contemporary sets of proofs have survived, the most important of which are in Vienna, Stuttgart and formerly in the Liechtenstein collection, now in Boston (see Musper, pp. 102ff). In 1526 Maximilian's grandson, the Archduke Ferdinand, commissioned Treitzsaurwein to complete and publish 'Der Weisskunig', but this plan was frustrated by Treitzsaurwein's death in 1527. It was not until 1775, after the blocks had been found at Graz, that it was published in book form by Hoffstätter in Vienna.
There are ninety proof impressions of the series in the British Museum which would have been taken while work on the blocks was in progress during the life of Maximilian (see Musper, p. 66).
For general information on the series, see H. T. Musper, 'Kaiser Maximilians I Weisskunig' , 2 vols, Stuttgart, 1956; 'Neues vom Weisskunig. Geschichte und Selbstdarstellung Kaiser Maximilians I in Holzschnitten', exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, ed. Hans-Martin Kaulbach, Stuttgart 1994; G. Bartrum, 'German Renaissance Prints', exh.cat. British Museum, 1995, nos. 142a, 142b, 155.
For a discussion of the way in which Maximilian used series of prints to promote his image, see L. Silver, 'Marketing Maximilian: the Visual Ideology of a Holy Roman Emperor', Princeton, 2008
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number