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The Empress, the Elector and the Painter: the Armorial of Bianca Maria Sforza, Copied for August of Saxony by Lucas Cranach the Younger (Manchester, John Rylands Library, German MS. 2)

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German MS. 2 is a previously unstudied armorial dating from the mid-sixteenth century. This article shows that it was produced in the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Younger for Elector August of Saxony, and that it was copied from an earlier armorial of c .1500 which was kept in Cranach's workshop, probably as reference material. Much of the original content and structure of this 'old armorial' has been preserved in Rylands German 2. On this basis, the original armorial can be located in a late fifteenth-century Upper German tradition of armorial manuscripts known as the 'Bodensee' group. It was also closely linked to the Habsburg dynasty, and appears to have been dedicated to Empress Bianca Maria Sforza. The armorial therefore opens significant new perspectives on the relationships between artists and heraldry and between women and heraldic knowledge, and on ways of visualising the Holy Roman Empire through heraldry.
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Keywords: Holy Roman Empire; armorials; heraldry; nobility; visual art; women

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tübingen

Publication date: 01 September 2018

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