Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
Rudolf II (July 18, 1552 – January 20, 1612), Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary & Croatia, King of Bohemia, and Archduke of Austria. Member of the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty (of which Marie Antionette was also a member). He was an Emperor ahead of his time. He was a staunch supporter of the arts & culture, rumored to have had many affairs with both women and men, and had an obsession with the Occult. His policies are generally viewed as unfavorable and which may have lead to the 30 Years War.
Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf ii
Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552 – 1612) was a famous and avid collector of curiosities. King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, he was patron of many artists including Giuseppe Archimboldo and was a keen collector of art, boasting the most impressive collection of his day. He also kept a menagerie of exotic animals, botanical gardens and commissioned many decorative and mechanical devices to be made for him by the best craftsmen in Europe.
The emperor famously suffered with episodes of depression from his mid-twenties to the end of his life, shielding himself by putting on festivals and displays, yet often withdrawing from the world in self-imposed periods of isolation. “No aspect of his character was untouched by melancholy: indeed it was the justification of the collections he envisaged” (Mauries, 2002:171). He was interested in everything; natural and artificial objects, alchemy and astronomy and went to extreme lengths to gain extraordinary and amazing objects, seeking refuge from his life in a search for knowledge and fundamental unity.
Rudolf’s cabinet of curiosities was huge and, rather than an actual cabinet, it took over multiple rooms at his home in Prague Castle. The collection was vast, and included musical instruments, waterworks, rare minerals and books, clocks, compasses and scientific instruments produced personally for him. He also employed people to travel Europe to search for remarkable items, and was brought back things ranging from decorative objects to dragon’s horns. An incredibly detailed and luxurious golden goblet with two horns at its top, was actually made with tusks from a warthog. A clock, made by Hans Schotthein in 1580, was in the shape of a ship and included the emperor himself, sitting on a throne, while every hour the six other German electors would process around him. It is easy to make presumptions about Rudolf’s personality based on objects and this clock seems to be a reassurance of his value and self-importance. Rudolf was trying to manipulate his reality and invent a new world full of experimentations through his enormous collection.
The Russworm Affair
Baron Heřman Kryštof Russworm (also spelt as Rosswurm or Russwurm, as well as other variants) was a nobleman and decorated imperial commander, as well as a notorious lothario with a foul temper. Despite, or perhaps because of, his choleric temperament his martial talents made him a valuable asset to the Emperor, Rudolf II. Eventually, however, he would fall victim to the intrigues and rivalries of the imperial elites.
The leadership of the imperial army was split into two factions, one German speaking and the other Italian. The former group was led by Baron Russworm, and the later by, amongst others, Count Giovanni Barbiano de Belgioioso. The Italians also enjoyed the favour of Rudolf’s brother and rival for the Imperial Crown, Matthias. The rivalry between the two groups ended up descending into open hostility, with accusations of disloyalty and malfeasance being flung in all directions.
A Prague based Milanese called Giacomo Furlani saw this discord as an opportunity and concocted a fatal plot. Furlani knew that Count Barbiano de Belgioioso’s brother, Francesco, who happened to be living in Prague, had a large bounty placed on his head by the Milanese authorities. His ambition was to have Russworm kill Francesco, and then claim the bounty from the Milanese on presentation of the body. Furlani deceitfully arranged for Russworm to attack Francesco and his entourage on Vlašské in Malá Strana (Russworm having been misled into believing that the Italian was planning to ambush him).
Some accounts claim that it was Russworm who struck the fatal blow; others that it was Furlani who, on seeing that Francesco had the better of the Baron, decided to take matters into his own hands. Regardless of who supplied the coup de grâce, Francesco ended up dead and both Russworm and Furlani were taken into custody and swiftly sentenced to death.
The Baron’s fate was sealed by the manipulations of Philip Lang z Langenfelsu, the Emperor’s chamberlain, who persuaded a reluctant Rudolf to sign the death warrant. Furlani was quartered (although other sources hold that he was shot to death in the course of being arrested); Russworm’s fate was to be dispatched by the blade of the notorious executioner Jan Mydlář. Russworm was executed in the Old Town Hall, bemoaning the fact that the Emperor to whom he was so loyal had seen fit to see him executed.
Unbeknownst to him, Rudolf had already changed his mind and issued a pardon – thanks to Lang, it arrived an hour too late. Russworm’s headless corpse was buried at St Mary of the Snows, a victim of his own belligerence and the wicked cunning of his enemies.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo Rudolf II as Vertumnus (1590), oil on panel, 68cm x 56 cm (26.8in x 22in)
Skokloster Castle, Sweden
Gourmandize |ˈgoŏrmənˌdīz| v [ intrans. ] Indulge in good eating; eat greedily.
ORIGIN late Middle English (as a noun): from French gourmandise, from gourmand; the verb dates from the mid 16th cent.