About the Portrait of Elisabeth: between recognition and projection

Themenbereiche: Kultur
Schlagwörter: Menschenbild, Kunst, Geschichte
Textsorte: Artikel
Releaseinfo: from: Flieger, Petra/ Schönwiese, Volker (Hg.): Das Bildnis eines behinderten Mannes. Bildkultur der Behinderung vom 16. bis ins 21. Jhd. Wissenschaftlicher Sammelband. Neu Ulm: Verlag AG SPAK 2007, Seite 272-305; Translation from German into English: Natalie Mair
Copyright: © Verena Oberhöller-Brown 2007

1. Introduction

The portrait of Elisabeth, which together with the Portrait of a Disabled Man is part of the Ambras collection of the art gallery of the Art Historical Museum Vienna, is the starting point for the investigation of the power of ideals and values during the 16th century in relation to physical and mental disabilities. The analysis of this picture is about making a contribution to the debate that prompts the enhancement of the common modus of image viewing.

At first the focus is on the context of the formation of the portrait of Elisabeth in order to understand the adoption of cultural values and religious-magical ideas. Time and place are closely connected to the origin of the portrait of Elisabeth. There is a difference between the emergence of the assumed large-format original painting at the Prague Courtyard (1535-45) and the small-format copy from Bavaria and the Tyrol (around 1576).

The iconological approach designed by Erwin Panofsky was taken into account for the interpretation because there were only spares other sources. With the help of the iconological method, possible questions about the art historical interpretation and interpretation of cultural history are designed. The iconological analysis is a working method that allows putting the complex image programmes into a larger cultural frame. Therefore, Erwin Panofsky developed a three-phase-scheme which refers to pre-iconographical, iconographical and iconological analysis. He defers between these levels which he puts in a context of senses: the sense of phenomenon, the sense of meaning and the sense of documentation.

The implementations refer to phenomena which are relevant in the environment of the formation of the portrait of Elisabeth. The humanistic and anti-reformation trends are outlined in the transformation of the role of the fool, in figurative and written documents. Then the question arises of how far Elisabeth even conforms to the common type of a 'natural fool'. The iconographical analysis of the illustrated symbols on the clothes of Elisabeth is closely connected to this.

In general, symbols mark the signifier and give information about the content of the matter of the image. The contemporary sources in poetry, philosophy and theology that have influenced the respective subjects and their illustration are taken into account. Furthermore, it has to be kept in mind that in the sense of observation, only some personal references can be identified. The illustration context is in fact more connected to social conventions and rules. What is documented through this image of Elisabeth? Does the iconography give any information about a possible recognition of Elisabeth at court? Or was the portrait of Elisabeth just an illustration?

The illustration levels which consider the artist being the messenger and the recipient being the observer are not allowed to be forgotten. The matter of this article is not to produce definiteness, but to emphasize the ambivalent character and the contradiction of artistic and cultural reception in relation to the image culture of disability.

1.2. The time of origin of the portrait of Elisabeth

The copy of the image from the Chamber of Wonders of Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595), local ruler of the Tyrol, probably dates back to the year 1576. The small-format portrait (11.5 x 9.5 cm) of Elisabeth was most probably copied from a large-format portrait which has gone missing. The original from the years 1535-45 is from the court painter of Emperor Ferdinand I[1], Jakob Seisenegger (1505-1567). The artist said that he had, among other portraits, also painted the portrait of the 'fool' Elisabeth at the court of Emperor Ferdinand I and Queen Anna in Prague (1543-1545), and this from memory. 'I painted his and her majesty on two boards and also, from memory, her majesty the 'fool' Elisabeth, I received 40 guilder' (Kenner 1894:110)[2]. This circumstance leaves space for speculations. Why did Seisenegger create a portrait from memory, a so-called memory image? The 'natural fool' was definitely part of the environment of Queen Anna of Bohemia and Hungary.

Anna Jagellonica, who was to become the heir of Bohemia and Hungary, was promised to a grandson - of Emperor Maximilian I when she was a child. Emperor Maximilian had planned a double wedding to secure the territorial claim towards the east. In 1515 Anna's father Wladyslaw II made an arrangement with Emperor Maximilian but without the permission of the Estates of Bohemia and Hungary. Finally, Anna got married to Archduke Ferdinand I on 26 May 1521 and her brother Ludwig II married Ferdinand's sister Maria from Habsburg in 1522. In 1526 King Ludwig II of Bohemia and Hungary died in the battle of Mohacs against the Ottomans under Suleiman I on 29 August 1526.

Therewith the right to inherit the Bohemian crown, which was conditioned by the marriage with Anna, was handed over to Ferdinand I. He was crowned King of Bohemia and Hungary in 1527. In the meantime, Queen Anna had to stay in Linz because of the unstable political situation. The first child, Elisabeth, was born in Linz, while the elder son Maximilian II was born in Vienna on 31 July 1527. Just one year later, on 7 July 1528, Archduchess Anna was born in Prague. The year after, Queen Anna was again forced to settle down in Linz. On 14 July 1529 Archduke Ferdinand II was born, he is the second son of the Bohemian-Hungarian King Ferdinand I and Anna. King Ferdinand I later became Holy Roman Emperor in 1531. Hirn (1885) writes that in the same night as the baby was born, there were thundery showers and this was a welcome sign for the astrologers. They could announce a happy future for the newborn. This special moment was a contrast to the critical situation in which the king was at that moment (cf. Hirn 1885, 1).[3] The children were born shortly after each other, about one year apart: Marie in 1531, Magdalena in 1532, Katharina in 1533, Eleonore in 1534, Margarete in 1536, and Barbara in 1539, Karl II in 1540, Helena in 1543 and Johanna in 1547. It can be assumed that the permanent pregnancies were very strenuous and limited the life of Queen Anna. She often complained in letters to the Prince bishop Bernardo Cles of Trent about the boredom at court and the absence of her husband (cf. Bauer 1912, 400).

The permanent danger of Ottoman wars in the east of the empire meant that the family of King Ferdinand I, the brother of the sitting Emperor Karl V, had to change their residence frequently. Especially Vienna was in danger because of the expanding Ottoman Empire. Hirn (1885) writes that during those difficult days (in 1529), when Vienna was trembling for the first time because of the assailing Turks, Ferdinand was left in the lurch by his brother Karl because of the war with Franz I. So Ferdinand moved between his different hereditary lands to at least get some help from there in order for the endangered city, which was an important eastern fortress of the occidental Christianity and culture, not to fall prey to the great Suleiman (cf. Hirn 1885, 1).[4] This danger coming from the 'multitudes of half moons' (the Turks) was not averted until 1571 when there was the victorious Battle of Lepanto.

The territorial palace in Innsbruck was the secure residence of the royal family from 1535-1543. The children of Emperor Ferdinand I and Anna of Bohemia, including Maximilian and Ferdinand, were thus raised in the Tyrol. The two archdukes did not receive private tutoring at home 'but they went to a school, this meant they were together in one area with a number of other royals from different countries...' (cf. Hirn 1885, 8) [5]. The general education was good and was in three different languages, namely German, Latin and Bohemian. The historian Hirn described the life at court in Innsbruck as not exaggeratedly luxurious. The court life was fully expressed at the Prague Court (1543). The brothers were educated in different orbits and in 1544 they received their own court. Maximilian was chosen for the Spanish court circles, while Ferdinand was introduced to the Bohemian cultural area (Kulturkreis).

Anna, who was the one-year-older sister of Archduke Ferdinand II, married Duke Albrecht in Munich in 1546 and all the family was present at the wedding. Hirn describes that 'the Bavarian wedding was the last time the family would all be together, because as early at the beginning of 1547, on 27 January, Anna of Jagellonica died and left behind her husband and her children' (cf. Hirn 1885, 11).[6]Queen Anna was well known for her religiousness, charity and wisdom. She spoke Latin, Czech, Hungarian and German. Shortly after their marriage, Ferdinand announced her chairlady of the privy councillor together with the bishop of Trieste. She is said to be the author of the scripture 'Clypeus pietatis'. Anna of Bohemia and Hungary (1503-1547) gave birth to 15 children. Queen Anna died when giving birth to her youngest daughter. With the death of the Queen "'he family circle of Prague was torn apart. The outbreak of the Schmalkaldic war and the related riots in Bohemia called the king and his son to arms and the daughters to escape to Innsbruck.' (cf. Hirn 1885, 11f.)[7]. In 1546 Archduke Ferdinand II took part in the religious war against the evangelical duke, this war was led by the Archduke's uncle Emperor Karl V. In 1547 the empirical catholic league won the Battle of Mühlberg and the war ended. The same year, Archduke Ferdinand II was entrusted with the governorship of Bohemia and had orders to represent his father and the House of Habsburg.

After this short historical outline there are some further questions regarding the life at court and the possible sphere of influence of the 'naive dame named Els'. Did Anna's husband King Ferdinand I do something against her boredom which she wrote about in personal letters? Could it have been that she was accompanied by a 'natural fool'? If yes, what was the relationship between these two women like? What happened to Elisabeth after the sudden death of Queen Anna? Can the symbols and emblems be read in connection to the personal destiny of the two women? Is Elisabeth as a natural fool maybe connected to the tradition of 'memento mori', meaning in remembrance of death and mortality? Is the memory picture maybe an individual remembrance picture? Or was she shifted into the centre of representation as a curiosity or natural fool.

1.3. About the history of reception of the portrait

The second model for the small-format portrait of the foolish Elisabeth from the fund of the Chamber of Wonders of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol could have been the painting which Ferdinand's elder sister Anna, Duchess of Bavaria, owned. An inventory was taken of it and it was titled: 'Portrait of a naïve woman named Els who accompanied King Ferdinand's wife'.[8]The original portrait at the Prague court has to be differentiated from the layout of the image in the portrait galleries at the court of Archduchess Anna of Bavaria and Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol. The portrait collection was established for scientific purposes and was not an arbitrary establishment but a well-elaborated 'modern-organised enterprise' (cf. Lhotsky 1941-1945, 187). Whenever there was the opportunity, new portraits were purchased. Written petitions document the purchase of papers in small formats. In 1576 there was a first attempt to reduce large format portraits to small formats. The small format of 24cm x 33cm turned out to still be too large, therefore the measurements were reduced even further in 1578. The miniature portraits were made in oil painting on impregnated paper (cf. Kenner 1894). 'Ferdinand aspired and already possessed many portraits before he came to the Tyrol and he also established a small and manageable gallery' (ib. 1941-1945, 187)[9]. His various contacts to Germany, Italy but especially to the royals in Bavaria and Moravia were crucial for the purchase of the models.

The sphere of influence at the Prague court, which was gradually converted into the permanent residence, has to be taken into account because Archduke Ferdinand II, who resided in Prague until 1567, kept in touch with the Prague court. A part of the Bohemian and Moravian aristocracy temporarily lived at the court of Archduke Ferdinand at Ambras Castle. This resulted in a close and mutual network between Prague, Vienna and Innsbruck. Ferdinand of Tyrol always tried to specifically arrange the 'catholic' axis at reunions. He made plans for marriage alliances, for example in 1574 the wedding between Wilhelm of Rosenberg and Anna Maria Margravine of Baden. 'Marriage with a catholic-minded noblewoman created a relational basis for the strengthening of the political and religious axis between Innsbruck, Munich and the residence of the chief burgrave of the county Český Krumlov.' (Bucek 2005, 426)[10].

Close relations were maintained and alliances between the courts were established which generally stabilized the clerical restoration. During this time, Bohemia was especially infiltrated by Protestant elements. 'The attempts of the Bohemian classes were oppressed for decades by the events of the year 1547 and the so-called 'bloody regional parliament' (cf. Hirn 1885, 15)[11]. King Ferdinand I appointed his son Archduke Ferdinand II to be the governor of Bohemia and assigned the task of implementing the execution of sentences to him. In his function as the governor of Bohemia Archduke Ferdinand II then attached great importance to the religious questions which were not at peace since Jan Hus from Prague who was burnt at the stake in Constance in 1415.

In 1564 when there was the division of the estate, Archduke Ferdinand II received Tyrol and Anterior Austria where he reigned as from 1567. In the course of his resettlement, Ambras Castle, which he transferred by gift to his first wife Philippine Welser, was extended. Most probably they already got married in 1557, but as they were not married within their social class, they had to keep their marriage secret at first. The bourgeois' children Andreas and Karl were excluded from the direct succession to the throne. The children received the names 'of Austria', Karl was entrusted with the margrave of Burgau and Andreas was announced cardinal and governor of the Netherlands. In 1576, Ferdinand II and Philippine's son Andreas was announced cardinal and the same year the marriage between Ferdinand II and Philippine was finally legalised by the pope.

The territorial and anti-reformation regulations by Archduke Ferdinand II and his personal efforts were more effective at first than the church internal measures. Hirn writes that 'Ferdinand was not satisfied with just taking care of the creation of the Catholicism in the agreed and legislative way but he also set a good example when it came to the acknowledgement of church sense and the fulfilment and observation of religious forms. The more eyes were on him and the more people wanted to follow him, the more effective he had to be.' (cf. Hirn 1885, 263).[12] At the court of Ferdinand there was a rigid catholic attitude Devotions were compulsory and pilgrimages were often an important part of the archduke's efforts to set a good example to strengthen the Roman Catholicism. The very much catholic character of the court of Ferdinand was also perceived by third parties. In addition to the vigorous conversion efforts of Ferdinand, there was also a gradual return to God and a recovery in the religious circles, which can be ascribed to the establishment of the Jesuit colleges.

The establishment of the Jesuit school in Innsbruck was a wish of Emperor Ferdinand I. The discussion about the establishment of the Jesuit order in Innsbruck was led by Petrus Canisius, who established the first Catholic catechisms. The construction of the Jesuit College began in 1562 and it was finished in 1573. In 1567, the convent in Hall was established by Magdalena, Margarete and Helena, the sisters of Archduke Ferdinand II. None of them ever got married. The archduchesses of Austria were brought up in a devout and divine way, a tradition of the family. The archduchesses requested that the Jesuits were to be appointed to Hall in 1571 to take over the pastoral care. The Jesuits were seen as special advocates of the counter-reformation. Their main tasks were carrying out the ongoing spiritual training, being in charge of the regular receptions of the sacraments and forcing the Adoration of the Virgin Mary.

Virgin Mary was 'announced the Patron Saint of the union' (cf. Hirn 1885, 278)[13]. The archduke emphasizes his intentions to make the counter-reformation one of the priorities of his governorship with hymns of praise for the Queen of heaven, religious dramas and songs. (cf. Hirn 1885, 340). New chapels were built for this purpose. For example in 1578 the Lady Chapel was constructed next to the court church. The chapel is also known as the 'silver chapel' and was the burial place for Philippine Welser and Archduke Ferdinand II. Another one of Ferdinand's foundations which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1589 was the pilgrimage church Loretto in Hallerau. During the pilgrimages, the devotion to the 'holy blood' in Seefeld had great significance. 'The local ruler walked from Innsbruck to Seefeld together with his wife and sons. It was a five hour walk and they were followed by 2000 people, including the court servants and the councils of the cabinet and second chamber' (Hirn 1885, 267).[14]

Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol regularly visited the pilgrimage sites in Bavaria and the Tyrol, in 1573, 1576 and 1584 he visited the Church of St. Mary in Altötting. (cf. Hirn 1885, 267). There is a clear close connection to the court in Munich and the portrait gallery. In 1894, Dr. Friedrich Kenner wrote about the history of the portrait collection of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol and that the collection was mainly influenced by Munich and Dresden. 'The portrait probably emerged in Ambras and Munich (...) because the person figured played a certain role in the childhood memories of the archduke and his younger sister Anna. Anna became the wife of Duke Albrecht IV (V) in 1546.' (Kenner 1894, 110)[15]. Kenner speculated that it was a memory picture which was connected to childhood memories. Yet, how does this personal image fit into the series of the portrait gallery? Does the concept of the collection reflect a special order? What where the criteria for the design of this whole art collection?

The hierarchic layout of the portrait collection was clearly structured with the help of the colour-coordinated inscription. The classification can therefore be deduced from the inscription. 'The pictures of the family tree of the emperor and the members of the house, as well as the emperors and kings have golden-coloured inscriptions under the German portraits. The imperial princess, the hereditary nobility and the clergy have mainly silver-coloured inscriptions and are differentiated from the celebrities who had inscriptions in oil-based paint; while court jesters and miracle persons, who were not part of the social order, again had silver inscriptions' (ib. 3)[16]. The systematic classification is represented through different colours. However, the miracle persons and court jesters, whose portraits also had silver inscriptions just like the hereditary nobility, were excluded from this. Can equality be assumed here? Or has this equivalent utilization of the same inscription colour a deeper meaning?

2.1. Wisdom and foolishness

The silver inscription in the upper left part of the portrait of 'ELISABET STVLTA' (foolish, naïve Elisabeth) is the only indicator for her so-called 'mental derangement'. The Latin notion Stultitia means foolishness, which in Greek is named Moria. The antiquated notion of foolishness described the inferior side of naivety. A fool was said to be a person who acted foolish due to dullness. Children and fools were described as innocent because of their foolishness. Children have the opportunity to not only grow up but also gain more wisdom in the course of their lives. However, this is impossible for a fool. They will stay a fool for life.

The fool was embedded in the 'divine plan of healing' and was part of the intransigent medieval Christian structure of order. The idea of 'Ordo' was reflected at court where court jesters had their permanent place. 'But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman' (Wisdom 13,1)[17]. In the Book of Wisdom the fool is said to be someone who does not understand God but is still close to him. According to this description, people with disabilities or learning difficulties were called 'natural' fools. The 'artificial' fool on the other hand, was someone who denied God. Denying God was said to be blasphemous. Originally, the word is the term for a 'blasphemy' that is to say the public derision of certain beliefs of a religion. Literally, the word blasphemy means 'to harm, 'to handicap' or 'the call'.

Edgar Barwig and Ralf Schmitz deal with the history of reception of fools in their article 'Fools, mentally ill and people at court'. They create a connection to the "prophesying" fool, which probably derives from the antique cultural heritage. Mönkemann carefully formulates this traditional line: 'The origin of the court jesters reaches far back into the oriental ancient times when insane persons were highly respected because of their crazy talks which were worshiped as divine afflatus. This was the only way for social superiors to commit the serious crime of saying the truth. In the middle ages people resorted to this.' (Mönkemann cited in Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 234).[18] The question of the origin of the proto-fool has not yet been verified. A continuous traditional line from the ancient world to the Late Middle Ages cannot be proven. Nevertheless, there is the question whether 'it was the ancient tradition of the "Morionen[19]"which was recaptured in the middle Ages, or whether there were miraculous reasons or whether there was simply the interest for the extraordinary which made sovereigns have court jesters?' (cf. Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 234)[20].

Metzger examines the phenomenon 'fool' on the basis of fine arts. He point out connections which are not anchored in our conscience. The illustrations of the Psalms are the iconographic starting point. These "sources with own meaning", in chronological order, as Mezger describes, (cf. Mezger 1981, 7) give important information. Mezger puts forward the thesis of the 'non-ethical' fool (ib., 9) becoming a sovereign. 'This idea matches the spirit of the middle Ages, when people used to think in opposites. In the sky, the moon belonged to the sun and on earth, the night belonged to the day, at the church portal, the synagogue belonged to the Ecclesia - likewise at court, there had to exist the "sapiens", the wise council, and the "insapiens", the fool court' (ib., 9).[21] The court jester is conceived as 'backward-looking' and a denier of God, a typological opposite antithesis to the sovereign who is seen as the 'prefiguration of the upcoming' (ib., 16) of the eternal Kingdom of Christ.

Metzger describes this relation as 'typ and antityp' (ib., 15), which becomes an individual topos from the 13th century onwards. In the beginning, they are opposed to each other like in a formula: the fool is the completion for the wise. The strict concept of the fool being complementarily opposed to the wise David or Salomon becomes more and more unstable. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the constellations turn around and the fool becomes a 'warner' and 'messenger of Vanitas'. 'The more the fool was understood as a messenger of evanescence on the evening before the modern age and the more he was suspected to have a prophetic gift, the more he distanced from the original role of Stultus' (ib., 45)[22].

In the humanistic and reformatory philosophy the 'foolish' is brought into a worldly context. On his way across the Alps, Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote 'The Praise of Folly'. The literary figure of the fool becomes the epitome of the pedagogic warning in the beginning of the 16th century. Sebastian Brant's 'Ship of Fools', which was first published in 1497 in Basel, became a role model. 'The Ship of Fools' was republished again and again in rapid succession. The interpretation of the figure of the fool becomes more and more moralising and reformatory.

In the course of time, the allegory-like biblical typology of the figure of the fool turned into a systematically differentiated classification. From the mid 15th century in great parts of Europe typical characteristics of the fool developed. The tight colourful costume, mostly red and yellow, the poulaine, the little bells on the belt and on the other parts of the costume were typical attributes of a court jester. In the standardised representation of the figure of the jester, the things that stand out most are the dog-ear cap, the toothed cockscomb and the quirk. All in all you can see that the costume of the jester is similar to the 'mi-parti' fashion of the gleemen. The vagabonds performed as jesters and entertainers.

The dresses of the gleemen were very often provocatively red, this colour predominated the colours green and blue. In general, colours were used to separate and represent the status. According to Mezger, red and yellow are "not very honourable colours" (Mezger 1981, 18). Especially the colour yellow was legally deprecated. Outcast, whores, Jews and people suffering from the plague were stigmatized with symbols and colours. They also used little bells attached to feet and clothes, these corresponded to 'the medieval custom to equip the outcast with acoustic signals' (Bergmann 2004, 53).

The eye-catching clothes, the entertaining function of travelling performers, acrobats, jugglers, dancers, magicians, grimaces, fortune tellers, legend and fairy tellers, poets and musicians, but also quacks (doctors), faith healers and their kind have things in common with jesters. To conclude, it can be said that the common classification of the attributes of jesters mentioned above are similar to the jester in literature known as 'artificial fool'. This classification of the 'figure of the fool' has been common since the 14th century. At the end of the middle Ages, it was fashionable to have 'artificial fools' next to 'natural fools' at the court. However, can these generalised classification be applied to the portrait of the 'natural fool' Elisabeth?

2.2. The cluster of symptoms

'Do I not show clearly enough on my face and forehead the child of which spirit I am? Anyone willing to show me as Minerva or Wisdom would have to be convinced by the opposite by just seeing my face, because even without any evidence it is an unmistakeable mirror of the soul. There is no imagination with me and you can always see what I am thinking."'(von Rotterdam 2006, 9). Does the portrait of Elisabeth not show clearly enough on the face and forehead of which spirit she is? Looking at the expression on her face, one cannot say that Elisabeth has a clearly childish character. Her wandering and upturned gaze rather more seems detached from the world. Her wrinkled forehead shows a kind of tension and her sagged cheeks and pulled back chin do not represent the image of a light-hearted woman. Is this a way of representing emotional distress? What can be interpreted through her physiognomy? Are these facial expressions in the 'Portrait of Elisabeth' characteristics for a certain type of impairment? What kind of constitutional type does her physique represent? Could the physiognomy of that time give us more information about her character?

Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol 'clearly recognised the scientific importance of the portrait collection' (cf. Lhotsky 1941-45, 186). Lhotsky stressed the archdukes' scientific interest in this sense and tried to find the possible motives: 'Was it the demand of his historiographers for illustrative material or the wish to enable a physiognomic study?' (ib., 187). The idea of the portrait was to 'bring the character of the portrayed person to light' (cf. Sporschill 2006, 62). Was the likeness of Elisabeth material for scientific research? Did they want to document a certain kind of cluster of symptoms?

'Phenomena which are understood as learning difficulties nowadays used to be seen as sanity disturbances (defectus animi) or as brain diseases' (cf. Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 226)[23]. The theory of the four humours used to explain these mental illnesses (lat. Humores = humours). The absence of or imbalance of the four humours, namely blood, phlegm, yellow bile or black bile results in a disorder which can be mutually mental, psychological or physical. 'The idea of the cosmological integration of humans created this body interpretation of the four elements, namely water, earth, fire and air. Water corresponded to phlegm (brain), air corresponded to blood (heart), fire corresponded to the yellow bile (liver) and earth corresponded to the black bile (spleen or testicles)' (cf. Bergmann 2004, 46)[24].

The four humours correspond to the four elements, the four ages in life and the four seasons. Other qualities which corresponded with the four elements were: moist/warm, moist/cold, dry/warm, dry/cold. Further correspondences could be found within the medieval theory of the four temperaments: blood was related to the sanguine person, the phlegmatic person had an excess of phlegm, the choleric type had an imbalance of the yellow bile fluid, and the melancholic type was said to be affected by the black bile. The theory of the four humours suggested that illnesses were caused by the dominance of one humour. 'Indisposition and pain were interpreted as an expression of an imbalance of the mixture of the humours (dyscrasia)' (ib., 46). The four humours had to be in accordance with all the other humours for the healing to be successful. Furthermore, one could be relived from suffering if they turned to the supplicant Mary or a responsible saint. 'These ideas were adopted and improved by important medieval doctors (...), whose therapeutic approaches however did not only refer to external somatic areas, but also to psychological sensitiveness and the cosmological position of the patient' (cf. Edgar/Schmitz 1994, 227).

The galenic theory strongly influenced the medical reports and advices made for Archduke Ferdinand II. Ferdinand's personal physicians diagnosed a disharmony of the humours. 'Although Archduke Ferdinand was well-built and physically strong, he was in frail health when he was an adolescent. He suffered from dizziness, neurasthenia, headaches and heart palpitations. In general, he suffered from melancholia and these illnesses often interfered with his political actions' (cf. Auer/Irbich 1995, 86). According to Doctor Brassavola (1529-1576) Ferdinand's irritated skin and his early baldness were signs of a heated character. 'Brassavola suggested a healthy diet and a regular and quiet day and night in order to avoid kidney stones and podagra' (cf. Auer/Irblich 1995, 86).

2.3. 'Memento mori'

The German word 'Tor' has different meanings; one of them can be fool, the other gate. If we analyse this word, we can see numerous connections which should be taken into account. The word 'Tor' can be interpreted in a wide etymological connection. Drosdowski describes the etymology of the German word 'Tor' as follows: 'the Middle High German noun "tore" is actually a nominalised adjective, the "r" derives from the old 's' (cf. Drosdowski 1989, 74f.)[25] The expressions such as 'dusslig' (stupid), 'dösen' (snoozing) which means 'sitting around thoughtlessly and half asleep' derive from this word (ib., 74f.); it described the apathetic condition of lethargy, apathy, lacking excitability and high sensibility towards external stimuli. Looking deeper at the language origin, a connection to the root word 'vapour' can be found. 'The Germanic words "dösen" (snooze), "Dunst" (vapour) and "Tor" (meaning fool in this context) show the connection to the fogginess of the senses and the mind.' (ib., 140)[26].

From the 16th century onwards, the meaning of foolishness seems to be expanding in different facets. There is an interesting connection to death when looking at the word from a linguistic point of view. The evanescence of the strengths used to be seen as a natural process of dying and this is expressed through the adjective 'dead'. It described the condition of 'being in a daze, becoming unconscious and fading away.' (ib., 748) and belongs to the word group of 'vapour'. In many cultures death is not the definitive end; it is just the door to a different world which was imagined as 'a world with demons, trolls and ghosts' (cf. Bergmann 2004, 48). In order for humans not to have a direct connection to the empire of the dead, demons and other beings, it was vital for the human beings to keep to the rituals and procedures. Individual, bigot patterns of behaviour were designed to keep the effects and consequences in balance.

The relation between the German word 'Tor' and death is documented in the 'memento mori'. In the 15th century, the figure of a fool and death had the same meaning for the same 'vanitas', evanescence. In the context of the vanitas-imagination and in the form of all mundane vanities, the fool is presented as death dressed up and with an hourglass. 'The court jester as a living indication of the vanitas' (cf. Mezger 1981, 35). Fools were considered to be the admonishers of evanescence, finitude and near death. Widespread deaths were probably the reason for the creation of the new type of fool in the form of death.

During the Little Ice Age in the 13th century, there were many crop shortfalls due to bad weather conditions, this lead to the increase of food prices and to starvation. Agricultural crisis and epidemic plagues were always present. 'The religious interpretation of phenomena such as earthquakes, floods, thunder, lightening, hail showers and plagues as signs of God's anger and the threat of the end of the world approaching could not be kept up because the catastrophes went on and on. The apocalyptic explanations rather more caused an even greater feeling of insecurity. Especially Catholicism did not manage to appease the dominant fear and anxiety through their religious organisation' Bergmann explains (cf. Bergmann 2004, 97). Fear and anxiety concerning divine punishment was omnipresent and this lead to the formation of complex defence mechanisms which were expressed through individualised forms of piety and bigotry. The religious behaviour, their pious views and their actions in relation to god should work as an example and at the same time have the effect of turning away from fate. During the 16thcentury especially the culture of 'pious views[27]' (cf. Roper, 1995) was preached in order to receive the grace of God. With the help of preaches, on the one hand the fear of death was transformed into a religious fanaticism and on the other hand the internalised piety led to potentiating fear and delusion, expressed in the witch craze, in pogrom and in the feat of a Turkish invasion.

The omnipresent fear of death led to a direct madness. The symptoms of delusional imagination were said to be caused by a disturbed relation to the real world. Individually as well as culturally increasing types of madness appeared, such as psychotic episodes, depressions, extreme acts of violence and melancholia. Michael Foucault explains this phenomenon in his book 'Madness and Civilization: A history of Insanity in the Age of Reason'. He explains the different ways of dealing with multiple near death experiences by demonstrating the dance of death. He describes the transition from the dance of death to the idea of foolishness.

Death is shown in different ways. The diversity led to an overlapping of foolishness and death. The original ambivalence of the fool as a symbol of evanescence and exhortation to humility moved into the background.

2.4. Dress code

Dress and jewellery codes were important signs to show which class one belonged to. Dress codes were regulated by authorities. Sophisticated dress codes signalised which working group, which social class and which sex one belonged to. 'Small differences in the kind of clothing indicated which class one belonged to and expressed ones self-consciousness. These were inevitable necessities of the society of the early modern times, reinforced through numerous dress codes.' (Geppert 2006, 27).

In some parts of Europe, wearing exquisite jewellery, striking accessories and long trains was a taboo, especially for burgesses. This dress code was already introduced during the 15th century. However, it was not until the 16th century that a strict dress code was introduced by the authorities and was executed by the police. In 1530 at the Reichstag of Augsburg, a wide range of new regulations was introduced; these were then renewed in 1548. In 1551 King Ferdinand I supported the order of the yellow badge for the Austrian hereditary land. This discriminating dress code was imposed on the marginal groups depending on the region. The sphere of influence of Archduke Ferdinand II also included a dress code policy (Hirn 1886, 492): 'Clerics should not overdress, officials and their wives dress according to their class, aristocrats are allowed to wear velvet, silk and fur, except sable fur, clothes with gold and silver linings are prohibited for all; aristocrat women are allowed to wear dresses with pearls, gold and silver scarves not broader than 1/1 ell and other things (ib., 492). This means that women should not wear too pompous dresses, headbands, accessories and jewellery were reserved for the aristocracy.

Can the dress code reveal the social prestige of the natural fool Elisabeth? Furthermore, the question is whether there is a special reason why she is wearing such valuable jewellery. The individualization during the modern times was expressed through details. The luxurious jewellery which Elisabeth is wearing is very prominent. Her blouse is buttoned up to the top and over the blouse she is wearing two gold pearls which are attached to a black string on both sides. Furthermore, she is wearing a prominent golden-coloured curb chain. The black string with nine gemmed rings stands out. Could the number nine indicate nine months of pregnancy? The number nine was believed to be the number of perfection and completeness, as it was considered as the divine triple triad or Trinity. The nine rings could also correspond to the nine spheres, which were adapted from the works of Platon.

Similar to the dress codes, the hairstyle also expressed certain court conventions. Long hair was fashionable during the late middle ages. During the transition to the 16th century, however, it was a taboo to wear one's hair loose. Married women had to hide their hair under a bonnet. In general, wearing a bonnet as a head covering was very popular in the court society during the Renaissance. Elisabeth is wearing such an opulent embroidered bonnet which also ties together her white hair in a hairnet at the back of the head. How can the portrait of Elisabeth be interpreted looking at these conventions?

[1] The name Holy Roman Emperor was effective from 1531 and before that Ferdinand I was King of Bohemia and Hungary from 1527

[2] "Item zu Prag hab ich di kuniglich majestat auch seiner majestat gemahel auf zwo tafeln conterfet und auswendig ihrere majestat nerrin Elss auch conterfet, dafür 40 gulden" (Kenner 1894, 110).

[3] "Ein fruchtspendender Gewitterregen, der sich in derselben Nacht, da der Sprössling das Licht der Welt erblickte, über die Landschaft ergoss, war den Astrologen ein willkommenes Zeichen, um in der zuversichtlichsten Weise eine glückliche Zukunft des Neugeborenen zu verkünden, die freilich nicht wenige contrastirte zu der kritischen Lage, in welcher sich in diesem Augenblicke der König uns seine östliche Erblande versetzt sahen" (Hirn 1885, 1).

[4] "In jenen Tagen schwerer Bedrängnis, da Wien zum ersten Mal vor den anstürmenden Scharen des Halbmonds erzitterte (1529), zog K. Ferdinand, vom deutschen Reich in Folge der Religionswirren von seinem Bruder Karl wegen des Krieges mit Franz I. völlig im Stich gelassen, in einzelne seiner Erblande herum, um wenigstens von ihnen eine erkleckliche Hilfe zu erlangen, damit die gefährdete Stadt, dieses östliche wichtige Bollwerk der abendländischen Christenheit und Cultur, dem gewaltigen Suleiman nicht zur Beute werde" (Hirn 1885, 1).

[5] "sondern in einer ‚Schul', d.h., in einem bestimmten Locale versammelten sie sich mit einer Anzahl Adeliger aus verschiedenen Ländern..." (Hirn 1885,8).

[6] "Nie mehr aber sollte sie sich in solcher Vollzähligkeit zusammenfinden, wie bei der bairischen Vermählung, denn schon zu Beginn des Jahres 1547, am 27. Jänner, entriss der Tod dem König seine Gattin, den Kindern ihre Mutter, die jagellonische Anna" (Hirn 1885, 11).

[7] "Prager Familienkreis ganz auf, da der ausgebrochene Schmalkaldener Krieg und die damit zusammenhängenden Unruhen in Böhmen den König und seinen Sohn unter die Waffen riefen, die Töchter zur Flucht nach Innsbruck riefen." (Hirn 1885, 11f.)

[8] "Eines einfeltigen Weibsbildts Contrafeht, welche Els gehaissen, so bei des Roemischen Koenigs Ferdinand Gemahl gewesen."

[9] "Gewiß ist, dass Ferdinand Bildnisse wohl erstrebte und schon längst in großer Zahl besaß, ehe er nach tirol kam, daneben aber einen handlich Kleingalerie angelegte, die sich leicht überblicken ließ" (ebd. 1941-1945, 187).

[10] "Die Heirat mit einer katholisch gesinnten Edelfrau schuf verwandtschaftliche Voraussetzungen zur Stärkung der politischen und religiösen Achse zwischen Innsbruck, München und der Residenz des obersten Burggrafen des Königreichs Böhmen in Krumau" (Bucek 2005, 426).

[11] "Die abfalldrohende Versuche der böhmischen Stände waren durch die Ereignisse des Jahres 1547 und seit dem sogenannten blutigen Landtage, auf dem das erwähnte Strafgericht über die Schuldigsten verhängt wurde, auf Jahrzehnte hinaus unterdrückt worden" (Hirn 1885, 15).

[12] "Ferdinand genügte sich nicht, in der besprochenen, legislatorischen Weise für die Herstellung des Katholicismus zu sorgen, sondern er gieng auch in allem, was äussere Bestätigung kirchlichen Sinnes, genaue Erfüllung und Beobachtung geistlicher Formen betrifft, mit dem beredesten Beispiel voran, und das musste dann um so wirksamer sein, je mehr Augen auf den Fürsten gerichtet waren, und je stärker der Trieb, es ihm nachzutun" (Hirn 1885, 263).

[13] "als himmlische Patronin des Bundes erwähnt" (Hirn 1885, 278).

[14] "Mit Gemahlin und Söhnen wallte der Landesfürst unter einem Gefolge von 2000 Menschen, worunter man das Hofgesinde und die Räte der Regierung und Kammer sehen konnte, zu Fuss von Innsbruck nach Seefeld, eine Strecke von nahezu fünf Stunden" (Hirn 1885, 267).

[15] "Das Auftauchen ihrer Porträts in Ambras und München (...) ist wohl daraus zu erklären, dass die Dargestellte eine gewisse Rolle in den Erinnerungen der Kinderjahre des Erzherzogs und seiner nächstjüngeren Schwester Anna, seit 1546 Gemahlin des Herzogs Albrecht IV. (V.) gespielt hat" (Kenner 1894, 110).

[16] "Wie in den Bildern des Stammbaume die Kaiser und die Mitglieder der Erzhauses, so sind auch unter den deutschen Bildnissen die Kaiser und Könige durch Goldschrift ausgezeichnet. Die Reichsfürsten, der Geburtsadel und die Geistlichkeit werden durch überwiegenden Gebrauch der Silberschrift, die Celebritäten durch solchen der Oelschrift im Grossen voneinander unterschieden, während Wundermenschen und Hofnarren, die in gewissem Sinne ausserhalb der socialen Ordnung stehen, wieder Silberschrift zeigen" (ebd., 3).

[17] Chapter 13.1 from the Book of Wisdom, full text accessible on http://www.latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=0&b=25&c=13 (accessed on 16 January 2011)

[18] "Der Ursprung der Hofnarren reichte weit ins orientalische Altertum zurück, als die Geisteskranken wegen ihrer wirren Reden, die als göttliche Eingebung verehrt wurden, große Achtung besessen hätten. Nur so hätten sich die Höherstehenden das schwere Verbrechen antun können, nämlich die Wahrheit zu sagen. Darauf sei im Mittelalter zurückgegriffen worden" (Mönkemann cit. by Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 234).

[19] Fools

[20] "War es die antike Tradition der Morionen, die vom Mittelalter wieder aufgegriffen wurde, waren es magische Gründe, oder war es ganz einfach das Interesse am Außergewöhnlichen, das die Herrscher dazu bewog, sich Narren zu halten?" (Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 234).

[21] "Diese Idee entspricht voll und ganz dem Geist des Mittelalters, das ohnehin gern in Gegensatzpaaren dachte: Ebenso am Himmel zur Sonne der Mond, auf Erden zum Tag die Nacht, am Kirchenportal zur Ecclesia die Synagoge ghörte - ebenso musste es bei Hofe neben dem ‚Sapiens', dem weisen Berater, auch den ‚insapiens', den unvernünftigen Narren geben" (ebd., 9).

[22] "Je mehr der Narr am Vorabend der Neuzeit als Vergänglichkeitsbote verstanden und je mehr ihm deshalb geradezu eine prophetische Gabe unterstellt wurde, desto stärker entfernt er sich von der ursprünglichen Rolle des Stultus" (ebd., 45).

[23] "Diejenigen Phänomene, die im heutigen Verständnis unter den Begriff Geisteskrankheit fallen, wurden in der mittelalterlichen Heilkunde überwiegend als Störung der Vernunft (defectus animi) und/oder als Erkrankung des Gehirns aufgefasst" (Barwig/Schmitz 1994, 226).

[24] "Aus der Vorstellung von der kosmologischen Eingebundenheit des Menschen leitet sich diese Körperauffassung von den vier Elementen Wasser, Erde, Feuer und Luft ab: Das Wasser entsprach dem Schleim (Sitz im Gehirn), die Luft dem Blut (Sitz im Herzen), das Feuer der gelben Galle (Sitz in der Leber) und die Erde der schwarzen Galle (Sitz in der Milz oder in den Hoden)" (Bergmann 2004, 46).

[25] "Das Substantiv mittelhochdeutsch ‚tore' ist eigentlich ein substantiviertes Adjektiv, dessen ‚r' aus altem ‚s' entstanden ist" (Drosdowski 1989, 74f.)

[26] "Diese Beziehung auf die Umnebelung der Sinne, des Verstandes zeigen auch die mit ‚Dunst' nahe verwandten, unter dösen, Dunst und Tor ‚Dummkopf' behandelte germanische Wörter" (ebd., 140).

[27] "frommes Haus" (vgl. Roper, 1995)

3. Attempt of an iconographic illustration

Based on the description of Kenner, iconographical details will be discussed. However, it has to be mentioned that Kenner does not determine all symbols exactly and therefore, he highlights some with a question mark.

'On the left hand side of the portrait, nearly at the front, face and neck are full and wrinkly with small brown eyes and white hair, the hair is tied back into a red gold-embroidered bonnet, she is wearing a golden embroidered low beret with many pearls, the blouse has a red trimming, the neckband is made out of golden material, the dress is yellow and has wide sleeves with dark-red horizontal stripes and red borders, the horizontal stripes are decorated with small white (silver?) embellishments which show different figures: on the right sleeve on the top there is a square button, underneath a hart jumping (left), in front of it a cockerel (right?), underneath another square button; on the right side of the chest there is a square button, underneath a rider on a donkey which is jumping (right), underneath there is a square button; on the left chest side there are two half moons (decrescent) with profiles; finally, on the left sleeve similar half moons (waxing), against it there is a rider on horseback (left), underneath a jumping donkey (right) and a swan (right). The dress is fur trimmed (brown) around the collar and over the top part of the chest. Under the dress a thin string around the neck with two golden pearls in the middle is visible; over the dress she is wearing a gold chain with a black string underneath on which nine rings with green and yellow stones are attached and pushed to the middle. Background green. - Catalog Nr. 905' (Kenner 1894, 110).[28]

Information and symbolism about the figures is taken from the description by Kenner. When necessary, the symbolism is extended in order to make different interpretation levels visible.

3.1. Mask

Buttons and other embellishments were already known in the 13th century and from the 14th century onwards these became increasingly popular. Before buttons were used, laces and brooches helped to close clothes. Before the button whole was invented, clothes were usually laced at the back or on the side. When looking closer at the button-like embellishments, can any figures be identified? In the bordure of Els dress you can identify a silver trimming which probably shows a kind of grimace. Masks were used as ritual illustrations of animals and gods long before then already. Animal masks generally had an apotropaic character. They had the function of averring a calamity from the person wearing the mask.

The term mask derives from Arabic and means nonsense, teasing, jest. A mask hides one's 'true' face, protects and transforms the person wearing it into an illustrative figure. The covering up of one's face with a mask is often interpreted as the embodiment of secular lust. Masks were very popular in the trivial tradition in the Tyrol. The autobiographical description of Emperor Maximilian describes this wearing of a mask. The so-called jousts on horseback and donkey back were especially popular. The jousts were interrupted by dance performances. Musical interludes, costumed theatre and dance performances were a popular amusement at the royal courts. Especially at big celebratory banquets and weddings, special costumed dress ups were used to amuse everyone. The participants were asked to show up wearing a mask.

3.2 Comb

What could be the meaning of the comb on the right sleeve of Elisabeth's clothing? Mythologically, the comb is a female symbol and was used for personal hygiene. The care of one's hair was especially important, because nice hair was a symbol of power. The combs were usually made out of ivory and had a liturgical, ceremonial relation. The comb reflected vanity, especially in the roman-catholic theology vanity belonged to one of the seven deadly sins. Vanity distracts the mind of a person from God and towards oneself; during the time of reformation vanity was a crime. Fools personify vanity because of their self-reference and remoteness of God. The comb had a negative connotation in the reformative fool tradition because it was a sign of vanity. Can a clear relation between the comb and cockerel be established here? Could the cockerel also open a different level of interpretation?

3.3 Cockerel and deer

Many churches in Europe have a cockerel on the spire indicating which way the wind is blowing, so-called weather vanes. The religions meaning of the cockerel becomes clear when looking at the 'Passion of the Christ': 'Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice' (Matthew 26,75)[29]. According to the gospel, Saint Peter does deny Jesus out of fear of being persecuted. The cock crow does not only remind us of the denial but above all of the prophecies of Jesus. The cockerel announces the passion of Christ and also was seen as a reminder of Christian believe - do not turn according to the wind, rather be a rock which is faithful to its Christian believe. Is the fool Elisabeth shown as reminder of 'vanitas' in a Christian relation? Could the other symbols maybe also be related to this religious transformation?

The symbol of the hart is often interpreted as the salvation by Christ. In the psalm, the hart in its royal appearance is described as looking for a spring of water: 'As a hart longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God' (Psalm 42,2)[30]. Acts of the saint tell stories about encounters with deers/harts with a crucifix on their antlers, such as in Saint Hubertus[31]. The hind, however, is often related to the Virgin Mary. The pre-Christian tradition attributes the deer and the moon to the goddess Artemis/Diane. The immaculate goddess of hunting and of the moon is interpreted in relation to Mary Immaculata (lat. Immaculate, unblemished). According to the dogma of the church, Mary will conceive in an unblemished way, because she is the mother of God.

The proud deer/hart belongs to the images of a salvific time. 'Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing' (Isaiah 35)[32]. Matthew linked to Isaiah and wrote good news: 'Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.' (Matthew 11, 5-6)[33]. Is the salvation-historical aspect connected to the natural fool? Are the miracles of recovery and healing, yes even of resurrection reflected in faith?

3.4. Donkey and swan

When looking closer, one can identify a donkey and a swan on the left sleeve. The donkey, which the viewer can see on the left sleeve, could be connected to the natural fool because in colloquial language a donkey is often described as stupid or stubborn. Even today the swearword donkey accuses a person of imperfection. So-called learning difficulties are often overcome with the help of poems and mnemonic rhymes, in German these are described as 'donkey bridges'[34].

'Eselsohren' literally meaning 'donkey ears' was another relevant attribute of fools. During the 15th century obvious illustrations connected to this fact existed, above all in the 'Ship of Fools' by Sebastian Brant. However, 'donkey ears' also characterise characterize heretics and in general stand for the heresy of atheists. In the light of the remoteness of God, the fool is illustrated with donkey ears during the middle ages. Erasmus von Rotterdam introduces the mythological level and describes the donkey ears as 'Midas ears'. These stories date back to the 'metamorphoses' of the often received work of Ovid. Hence, donkeys making music are often a symbol of foolishness and dullness. In this sense, the donkey is an allegory of the 'stultitia gentilium' of Judaism (mount of the synagogue).

The main thought is the connection to the theological interpretation of the 'folly of the cross' (Torheit des Kreuzes). Considering the religious dimension, Jesus himself is the fool who is riding a donkey on his entrance to Jerusealem. In the bible, the donkey is described as a symbol of persistence, patience, abstinence?, obedience in four different scenes: the Nativity (cf. Isahiah 1, 3 and Habakkuk 3, 2), mount of the Prophet Bileam (Numbers 22, 23-24), as a mount for Mary when fleeing to Egypt (Matthew 2, 3-33), as well as for Jesus when he enters Jerusalem (Matthew 21, 1-11). The events of the salvation history were popular enactments during the 13th and 14th century in the Tyrol. Palm donkeys[35] made out of wood accompanied the Palm Sunday processions;, this is still common in Thaur near Hall in the Tyrol, for example. The donkey is connected to the explanation of the gospel.

It seems as if the donkey is following the swan in gallop. If it really is really a swan, then the interpretation could be connected to the reformation and counter-reformation. The forerunner of the Reformation Jan Hus, from Prague, was executed in 1415 during the Council of Constance for being a heretic. Before he was burnt at the stake he apparently said that today they were roasting a goose, but that tomorrow a swan will resurrect from the ashes. In theCzech Republic Hus is symbolized as a goose and Luther as the resurrected swan.

3.5. Dragons, snakes and composite creatures

The dragon-like or bird-like composite creature on the left sleeve of Elisabeth's blouses could be interpreted in connection to the image programme of the apocalyptic woman, because the Revelation says: 'and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne' (Revelation 12, 5)[36]. Since the ancient history, the image of dragons fighting was used for politics. Snakes and dragons have a similar meaning. 'And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is cocme down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.' (Revelation 12, 7-12)[37]. In the Apocalypses of John, the snake as a symbol of paradise mutated to a dragon. Dragons are often used as a synonym for snakes (lat. 'drac' or Greek 'drakon'). Literally it means gaze or the gazing person. Lilith, Adam's first wife, is described as a snake which is said to have seduced Eva. The snake of paradise re-emergences in the apocalypses. In the old Mesopotamia, Lilith is the daemon of child fever and appears in several texts. Usually she is illustrated with wings.

In everyday speech, composite creatures are often described as monsters. They cannot be directly attributed to one animal. The illustration of dragons, toads and snakes were considered special curiosities. Bird-like composite creatures with a shell or as a combination of different animal bodies and heads were often represented in mythology and described as fabulous creatures. They stimulated people's fantasy in the modern times in a kind of special way. The so-called Basilisk could be one of these mentioned creatures - a fabulous creature which stimulated the imagination of human beings in a special way. 'In the allegoric language of alchemists, basilisk meant philosopher's stone' (Petzoldt 1990, 31)[38]. The basilisk appears in different emblems, on houses and illustrations in the form of fabulous creatures, such as lizards, cockerels, snakes, dragons. These hybrid creatures which could not be clearly attributed, appeared in various different cultural areas. The Roman poet Plinius the Elder wrote that the basilisk was a lizard which had a light patch on its head in the form of a crown. 'In the medieval bestiary, the basilisk is often illustrated with a crown being worshipped by other snakes' (Pacher 1994, 62). The word derives from the Greek word 'basileus', which means as much as small king. Some sources say that the basilisk is the 'king of the snakes and reptiles'. It is said that the basilisk had an evil gaze,; everyone who looked at him had to die. Even his breath was said to be deadly and just like an intense fire it could destroy all the vegetation. The basilisk dealt out destruction, infertility and above all the pest everywhere. The basilisk is considered as deadly, his breath and his gaze could kill. The dangerous gaze could only be fended off with the basilisk's own reflection in the mirror. As a defence, many portals but also sacral buildings carry the image of a basilisk. 'Because of the belief that his own reflection would fend him off, there are fabulous creatures on breast walls of the main aisle. Their wild appearance should be like a barrier and protect from all bad ghosts that could harm the church.' (Pacher 1994, 62f.).

Looking at the left sleeve of Elisabeth a little closer, you can recognize a dragon-like animal or a stork, depending on the angle you look at the picture. If you turn the portrait 90 degrees, you can identify a basilisk with a crown. This visual illusion enables a more complex interpretation and allows different points of view: a reversible figure which due to the coloured shading shows different information depending on the angle it is viewed from.

3.6. Rider

Could the two riders on horsebacks illustrated on the outer garment of Elisabeth be interpreted in the sense of the apocalyptic vision? The apocalyptic texts and illustrations of the four apocalyptic riders were widely spread in the 16th century. In the sixth chapter of the Revelation of John, the apocalyptic riders appear as messengers of war, hunger, famine, plague and death. The interpretation of the four riders was in close relation to the experiences at that time: agricultural crisis, starvation and famine were major problems during the 16th century. The apocalyptic interpretation probably emerged in the context of the Ottoman Wars, the religious unrests and the widespread deaths. Could the symbols on Elisabeth's clothing have a defensive function? Can the defence and overcoming of crisis and conflicts be interpreted in a religious-magical relation?

3.7. Sun, moon and stars

The surcot of Elisabeth has red-golden yellow horizontal stripes. The accentuation of the horizontal lines and crossbars is relatively new in regard to costumes. 'The Gothic style of vertical lines towards the sky are not as popular anymore, horizontal lines dominate the clothings now; a repetition of the newly found level of the individual of the modern times' (Geppert 2006, 27). Different symbols can be identified on the maroon coloured stripes on the dress: the most prominent symbols are the four moons with faces, three of them are looking to the left and one is looking to the right. Two of the moons are flanked by riders on horsebacks and donkey backs, one coming from the left and the other from the right. The moon on the right shoulder is hardly visible. The yellow gold clothing of Elisabeth shows silver embellishments. The gold colour is an indication for the royal class or for divinity. The colour gold often represents the luminance of of the sun, whereas silver was seen as a valuable metal. The expensive silver was increasingly applied in a religious sense. A well-known example is the 'silver chapel' in Innsbruck which was built in 1577 by the architect to the imperial court, Hans Lucchese. Archduke Ferdinand II ordered this construction 'in honour of our dear immaculate woman'. The vaults and walls of the silver chapel in Innsbruck are decorated with 'winged cherubs and golden half moons on a red background' (Dehio Tirol 1980, 17). Certain similarities in colours can be identified in the horizontal stripes and the selection of the theme of the half moons. (Image: décor silver chapel).

Alexander Colin constructed both tombs. The lower gravestones is are made of marble. They show 'emblems of war and death and furthermore, 26 colour-coordinated emblems. The lower part of the wall is in white marble and shows scenes from the Archduke's life: the Battle of Muehlberg (defeated Duke Frederik?? Friedrich?? of Saxony kneeling in front of Emperor Charles V.), ordering of Ferdinand to the governor in Bohemia by King Ferdinand I., storming of a Turkish city (Korontha, 1556), battle piece from the Ottoman Wars in 1566 (Dehio Tirol 1980, 17). A half moon can either be a seen as a moon phase or an unspecific term for the iIslamic symbol of the sickle moon.

The sickle moon/ crescent can therefore be interpreted in two different ways: given the danger of the Ottoman Wars, the moon sickles it can be interpreted as a sickle moon symbolising victory over the Turks, or as a female attribute of Mary. In the bible the moon has an important symbolism. The moon can be attributed to John the Baptist, who announced the Messiah as the last Prophet of the old testament. Therefore, the moon is attributed to him and the Old Testament, whereas the the sun is a sign of salvation and the New Convent. So it can be said that in the typology, the moon stands for the old church (synagogue) and the sun (ecclesia) for the new church. In the Christian mystery of the sun and moon, the moon glows because it puts itself inside of the sun. The luminosity can only become transparent through the sunshine. From a theological point of view, it is said that the old church can only be recognised in the brilliance of the new church. In the 'mysterium lunae' the three moon phases (dying, fathering, birthing) are compared with the Ecclesia. 'The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted' (Isaiah 30, 26). 'And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof' (Revelation 21, 23).

The moon 'luna' has a female connotation and is personified in the form of Mary, whereas the sun is interpreted as male and is associated with Christ. Due to Mary's supernatural beauty she is compared to the sun and the moon in the Song of Solomon (the Song of Solomon 6, 10).

She is also described as the queen of heaven (lat. 'regina coeli'). On the former winged altar in the silver chapel you can also see on the left hand side a sun with a face and on the right hand side, a moon face above the head of Mary. In the middle, between the sun and the moon, god, embedded in clouds, is holding his hands wide open in the shape of a triangle open to the bottom. This artwork out of silver which was made by Anton Ort, the gold smith of the court of Archduke Ferdinand II, decorated the altar. Around the praying Madonna with two angels, there are 14 symbols of Mary: sun, moon, city, tree, closed garden, star, rose, fountain, Roman temple, gate with wall, seal, cedar wood vessel, water container, field flowers, tower of David, closed gate. On the predella you can see the reliefs of four apostles: Jude Thaddeus, Matthew, Philip and Bartholomew.

There is a new and unforeseen rise of adoration of the Virgin Mary in the countries ruled by the Habsburgs. The Madonnas and Mary columns and the creation of new miraculous images of the Virgin Mary expressed the religious renovation in the spirit of the counter-reformation. Mary was worshipped as the victorious matron who was especially related with the victory for the catholic liga in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 over the Islamic fleet. Therefore, this character of Mary is often described as the victorious Mary. She personifies the victory over people of a different faith, namely Jews, Mohammedans, Protestants. Moreover, Mary represents the promise of the new church as the victress over death, Satan and heresy. Another form of the illustration of Mary developed from the jubilant Mary, namely 'Maria Immaculata', the immaculate Mary.

The Madonna on the moon sickle became a popular subject during the 16th century. She is standing on a downwards pointing half moon with stars. typological illustration of the Virgin Mother, which evolved from the visionary connection, namely the apocalypse of John. Since the last third of the 14th century, she appears as an art figure and since the mid 15th century she appears more and more often. Mary received the cosmic symbols and was incorporated in the celestial spheres. At Ambras Castle near Innsbruck, you can find a so-called image of enemel with the title 'apocalyptic woman' from the glass factory in Innsbruck, it is dated around 1570-90 (inventory number PA 1175). A Marian image on the moon sickle was also maintained from this time period at the Ambras Castle (inventory number PA 1167).

The idea of the apocalyptic woman was transported into the picture of the Virgin Mary shaped by the modern era. From a religio-historical point of view, the picture of the apocalyptic woman can be traced back to the cult of Isaiah of the Ancient World. The old church already interpreted the twelve stars as the zodiac, the sun as Christ and the moon as Mary. During the 16th century, the apocalyptic woman gradually changed into the apocalyptic Madonna. The apocalyptic woman is identified with Mary, in the Catholic tradition it is compared to the Ecclesia, the church. Due to the image of birth it experiences an apocalyptic transformation. An important sign in the guise of the apocalyptic woman appears in the sky: 'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.' (Revelation 12, 1). The woman giving birth is an important symbol in the cosmic tradition. In great pain, the apocalyptic woman gives birth to the child.

This aims at the connection between Eva and Mary, who as the new Eva conquered the original sin. The 'difficult birth'[39] is often used as a metaphor for extreme hardship and distress, this feeling then changes into complacence after the labour pains.

Mary, in the role of Jesus' mother, becomes part of the salvation history. 'Blessed is the fruit of thy womb' is the privilege of grace of the Virgin Mary. In order to reinforce the status of Mary, she had to stand above all other women. Proof for this was the Immaculate Conception, which was a concept already defined in the Council of Basel in 1439. The Mariological interpretation of the apocalyptic woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon, appearing in the sky/heaven is often illustrated in relation to the dispute and the testimony of the Immaculate Conception during the 16th century. The breakthrough of 'Maria Immaculata' was in close relation to the counter-reformational image propaganda. (Image: Madonna in the Silver Chapel)

Is there an approach between the fool and Mary? The portrait of Elisabeth does not directly stand in the tradition of the illustration of fools, this can be identified through the iconography. The fool played an important role in the humanistic and pedagogical preparation of the reformation, whereas Elisabeth is related to the catholic thinking during the counter-reformation. The symbols on her clothing can probably be interpreted in a religious-magical context of the counter-reformation. In general, the image programme allows relations between Elisabeth and the apocalyptic woman. The female association are is especially accentuated here. The origin is definitely deeper rooted in the magical thinking. This is documented in a short synopsis about the belief in miracles of that time.

[28] Translation of (Kenner 1894, 110)

[29] "Ehe der Hahn kräht, wirst du mich dreimal verleugnen" (Matthäus 25, 75)

[30] "Wie ein Hirsch sich lechzt nach frischem Wasser, so lechzt meine Seele, Gott, nach dir" (Psalm 42, 2).

[31] Hubertus von Lüttich

[32] "Lahme werden springen wie ein Hirsch, die Zunge des Stummen wird jauchzen" (Jesaja 35).

[33] "Geht und erzählt Johannes, was ihr hört und seht: Blinde sehen, Gelähmte gehen umher, Leprakranke werden rein und taube Menschen können hören. Tote werden aufgeweckt und die Armen bringen die Freudenbotschaft. Glücklich ist, wer nicht meinetwegen Gott untreu wird" (Matthäus 11, 5-6).

[34] The word 'Eselsbrücke' literally means 'donkey bridge' but the term also refers to a mnemonic.

[35] Decorated donkey or wooden donkey on Palm Sunday processions

[36] "Der Drache stand vor der Frau, die gebären sollte; er wollte ihr Kind verschlingen, sobald es geboren war. Und sie gebar ein Kind, einen Sohn, der über alle Völker herrschen wird. Und ihr Kind wurde zu Gott und seinem Thron entrückt." (Offenbarung 12, 5)

[37] (Offenbarung 12, 7-12)

[38] "In der allegorischen Sprache der Alchemisten bedeutet der Basilisk den Stein der Weisen." (Petzoldt 1990, 31)

[39] In German 'schwere Geburt', metaphor for extreme hardship and distress

4. Records of beliefs in miracles: 'Signs of miracles still happen'

Ferdinand II leveraged the Catholic counter-reformation in his own countries and as an art lover, built a basis for the famous Ambras collection which today belongs to the Museum of Art History Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien). Artefacts and natural produce which were associated with Archduke Ferdinand's scientific interest, were presented in the Chamber of Wonders. 'It was clear how the interest for nature was connected to the interest for strange and mysterious wonders' (Hirn 1885, 364). Ferdinand was not the only person of this time interested in curiosities. His brother-in-law, Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria built a ducal art chamber in Munich. 'It is part of the most sophisticated royal collections of this kind of the 16th century north of the Alps. He enriched his collection at the art chamber at Ambras castle with a generation of the legendary Prague art collection of Emperor Rudolf II and furthermore it was enriched in friendly rivalry competitions with the efforts of Archduke Ferdinand II of the Tyrol' (Diemer 2004, 6).

The librarian and art chamberlain Gerhard von Roo, born in the Netherlands, searched for and bought curiosities for the Archduke. Roo collected and put together different history related stories, including the 'Sapientia Salomonis', a written didactic poem about the Wisdom of Solomon.

Nature was explored and examined mainly through alchemist and astrological methods. Ferdinand himself owned a 'chemical kitchen' and he was familiar with dealing with alchemists. Furthermore, birth horoscopes were nothing extraordinary. 'Naturalists of that time preferred taking the path of alchemy and astrology for their researches; yes there was hardly any other thing an educated person who worshipped the fashion of that time, would have rather have done' (Hirn 1885, 363). The prophecies and predictions were related to the constellation. Up until the modern times, astrology was seen as a real science and designated astronomers, like Kopernikus and Kepler, observed the stars.

During the 16th century, reports about comets, which were interpreted as signs of forerunners, became more frequent. These prodigies (miraculous signs) were especially related to celestial phenomena and malformations of humans, animals and plants. There are numerous images and leaflets about celestial prodigies. The figurative history shows a merely unbelievable variety of things that have fallen from the sky. For example, stones and snakes falling from the sky as a miraculous sign when a baby is born. It is said that it rained fish, frogs, locusts but also crop. One was speechless with amazement because of the miracles the divine nature came up with.

Every form of epilepsy, which was seen as a divine illness, and every kind of malformation caused sensation. Deviation from a standard, determined the interpretation of sign. Very often this was the basis for prodigies which were interpreted as signs. During the modern times, individual malformations were not understood as a fail of the divine wisdom, but rather as a prediction of the future.

The meaning attributed to miracles, finds its expression in the 'imago mundi'. It is a form of illustration of the medieval sphere of influence, a picture of the world which was a model for illustrative and written descriptions. The Physiologus[40] had a great influence in the Christian iconography.

The image heritage of the ancient world was passed on into the 13th, 14th and 15th century and was documented in the belief in miracles. 'Miracles played an important role in the historic/historical mystification which stimulated humans in the 12th and 13th century and the echo of these miracles was still felt in Europe in the 17th century' (Wittkower 1996, 118).

While human attributes were still seen as allegoric during the middle ages, 'during the century of humanism, the pagan fear of monsters as an evil sign returned' (ib., 126). Signs like these appeared for example at unusual births which corresponded with extraordinary celestial phenomena and celestial alignments (solar eclipses and comets). Seriously deformed foetus were not only interpreted in an individual sense but also politically, they were interpreted as a sign sent by god. They expressed divine anger. From the 16th century onwards, rising numbers of prophetic scriptures were issued and these were distributed through the new medium of letterpress.

The magical thinking experiences a great breakthrough with the superstition of the 16th and 17th century. The belief in miracles and the attempts to interpret these, became increasingly abstruse. They were infiltrated by delusion. Especially outsiders, vagrants, jugglers, midwives and so called 'natural fools' acted as figures in the context of defence, coping with anxiety, accusation and the omnipresent death experiences.

'The gradual evolvement of these kind of murderous image figures and the effects of the fear of death which had become overpowering, are not linked to the experience of the catastrophes of the early modern times' (Bergmann 2004, 10). There was an increase in catastrophes during the 16th and 17th century. Innsbruck was haunted by a devastating firestorm in 1575 and 1593, in 1572 there were massive earthquakes which continued for more than 'forty days' (Hirn 1886, 38).

The gGreat mMortality spread in the Lower Inn Valley in the Tyrol in 1562 and in 1566. 'The evil companion of the plague is inflation' (ib., 557). Hardship, price increases and other curses caused another epidemic in 1571 and worsened due to earthquakes. This year of horror and hardship is described by Schweyger in Hall in Tyrol. 'Due to the terrible and devastating earthquakes, a procession with the reverend sacrament just like during the Corpus Christi processions was held by the order of the Royal Serenity. After singing the High Mass of 'Passione Domini' (Passion of Christ) the people walked under the portal in front of the large church entrance and held the first stop. (...) On the 14th and 16th of January the same kind of procession was held. On the 14th the mass was read by the Holy Trinity and on the 16th by the Blessed Virgin' (Kleinberger 1953, 197f.).

During the modern times, the new science did not oppose the Christian doctrine, but rather was a 'kind of excessive implementation of the fundamental idea of magic' (ib., 104) which was also understood as part of the divine creation. The break of the scholastic principle of classification created completely new forms of beliefs. In the course of the redefinition of statements of faith during the reformation and counter-reformation, a new kind of canonisation, put together from different traditions, developed. The different interpretations of the religious renovation were put together out of different pieces. Complex iconological conventions evolved which emphasized and communicated these trends. The counter-reformational image propaganda used the female protagonist Mary for its work. The creation of the illustration of the apocalyptic woman in the guise of 'Maria Immaculata' as Jesus' mother, as advocate for this time of hardship and as the Virgin of Mercy led to an idealisation of the image of women and mothers.

An important motif in the life of Archduke Ferdinand of the Tyrol, was to maintain the memory of his ancestors. He completed the 'memoria' concept of his great-grandfather Emperor Maximilian I by finishing off the royal chapel (Hofkirche) (1567-1584). If you doe not create a memory during your life, you will be forgotten after death - that was the idea. In this sense, the commemoration has an important political role, namely to elevate the gender and the House of Habsburg. Furthermore, one hoped for eternal life through the remembrance of the dead and rogations and pleadings.

Did the portrait of Elisabeth find its way into the portrait gallery as a memoriam of the mother? Could it be that Ferdinand of the Tyrol and Anna of Bavaria showed their recognition and acknowledgement for the fool Elisabeth in this way? The portrait of Elisabeth does not allow any obvious statements about her person, but rather documents what is in between: the portrait of the fool Els is between recognition and projection.


Verena Oberhöller: About the Portrait of Elisabeth: between recognition and projection

from: Flieger, Petra/ Schönwiese, Volker (Hg.): Das Bildnis eines behinderten Mannes. Bildkultur der Behinderung vom 16. bis ins 21. Jhd. Wissenschaftlicher Sammelband. Neu Ulm: Verlag AG SPAK 2007, Seite 272-305; Translation from German into English: Natalie Mair

bidok - Volltextbibliothek: Wiederveröffentlichung im Internet

Stand: 13.04.2011

[40] The Physiologus is a didactic text written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author.

zum Textanfang | zum Seitenanfang | zur Navigation