Thursday, May 2, 2013
William probably wanted the painting for his newly
William probably wanted the painting for his newly built summer Lusthaus ("pleasure house") in the grounds of his palace in Munich, approximately 60 miles (97 km) south of Regensburg. There, it was to hang alongside seven other paintings with a similar format and subject matter, including Ludwig Refinger's The Matyrdom of Marcus Curtius, SONY VAIO PCG-7196M battery Melchior Feselen's The Siege of Alesia by Caesar, and the painting of Battle of Cannae by Hans Burgkmair (1473–1531). Another eight, each portraying a famous woman from history, were later added to the set, probably at the behest of the Duke's wife, Jacobaea of Baden. Altdorfer's Susanna and the Elders (1526) was among these. SONY VAIO PCG-7191V battery Earlier depictions of the Battle of Issus are few. Battle of Issus, a fresco by Philoxenus of Eretria, is probably the first such. It was painted sometime around 310 BC for Cassander (c. 350–297 BC), who was one of Alexander the Great's successors. Alexander and Darius – each within a lance's length of the other – are pictured among a wild fray of mounted and downed soldiers. SONY VAIO PCG-7192V battery While Alexander maintains an aura of unshaken confidence, fear is etched in Darius' face, and his charioteer has already turned to rein his horses and escape. Roman author and natural philosopher Pliny the Elder claimed that Philoxenus' portrayal of the battle was "inferior to none". SONY VAIO PCG-71111M battery Some modern critics posit that Battle of Issus might not have been the work of Philoxenus, but of Helena of Egypt. One of the few named women painters who might have worked in Ancient Greece, she was reputed to have produced a painting of the battle of Issus which hung in the Temple of Peaceduring the time of Vespasian. Sony VAIO VGN-FW31Z battery The Alexander Mosaic, a floor mosaic dating from c. 100 BC, is believed to be a "reasonably faithful" copy of Battle of Issus, though an alternative view holds it might instead be a copy of a work painted by Apelles of Kos, who produced several portraits of Alexander the Great. It measures 5.82 x 3.13 m (19 ft x 10 ft 3 in), and consists of approximately 1.5 million tesserae (coloured tiles), Sony VGN-NR11Z Battery each about 3 mm (0.12 in) square. The mosaicist is unknown. Since the mosaic was not rediscovered until 1831, during excavations of Pompeii's House of the Faun, Altdorfer could never have seen it. It was later moved to the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy, where it currently resides. SONY VAIO PCG-21211M battery The Battle of Alexander at Issus is painted on a limewood panel measuring 158.4 cm × 120.3 cm (62.4 in × 47.4 in), and portrays the moment of Alexander the Great's victory. The vertical format was dictated by the space available in the room for which the painting was commissioned – each in William's set of eight was made to be the same size. SONY VAIO PCG-21212M battery At an unknown date, the panel was cut down on all sides, particularly at the top, so the sky was originally larger and the moon further from the corner of the scene. The scene is approached from an impossible viewpoint – at first only feet from the fray, the perspective gradually ascends to encompass the seas and continents in the background and eventually the curvature of the Earth itself. SONY VAIO PCG-21212V battery Thousands of horse and foot soldiers immersed in a sea of spears and lances populate the foreground. The two armies are distinguished by their dress, anachronistic though it is: whereas Alexander's men clad themselves and their horses in full suits of heavy armour, many of Darius' wear turbans and ride naked mounts. The bodies of the many fallen soldiers lie underfoot. Sony VGN-NR11S Battery A front of Macedonian warriors in the centre pushes against the crumbling enemy force, who flee the battlefield on the far left. The Persian king joins his army on his chariot of three horses, and is narrowly pursued by Alexander and his uniformly attired Companion cavalry. The tract of soldiers continues down the gently sloped battlefield to the campsite and cityscape by the water, gravitating toward the mountainous rise at the scene's centre. SONY VAIO PCG-21213V battery Beyond is the Mediterranean Sea and the island of Cyprus. Here, a transition in hue is made, from the browns that prevail in the lower half of the painting to the aquas that saturate the upper half. The Nile River meanders in the far distance, emptying its seven arms into the Mediterranean at the Nile Delta. South of Cyprus is the Sinai Peninsula, which forms aland bridge between Africa and Southwest Asia. SONY VAIO PCG-21214V battery The Red Sea lies beyond, eventually merging – as the mountain ranges to its left and right do – with the curved horizon. A fierce sky caught in the dichotomy between the setting sun and the crescent moon dominates more than a third of the painting. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2M battery The rain-heavy clouds swirling ominously around each celestial entity are separated by a gulf of calmness, intensifying the contrast and infusing the heavens with an unearthly glow. Light from the sky spills onto the landscape: while the western continent and the Nile are bathed in the sun's light, the east and the Tower of Babel are cloaked in shadow. Sony VAIO PCG-5P1M battery The painting's subject is explained in the tablet suspended from the heavens. The wording, probably supplied by William's court historian Johannes Aventinus, was originally in German but was later replaced by a Latin inscription. It translates: Alexander the Great defeating the last Darius, after 100,000 infantry and more than 10,000 cavalrymen had been killed amongst the ranks of the Persians. SONY VAIO PCG-81212M battery Whilst King Darius was able to flee with no more than 1,000 horsemen, his mother, wife, and children were taken prisoner. No date is provided for the battle alongside these casualty figures. The lower left-hand corner features Altdorfer's monogram – an 'A' within an 'A' – and the lower edge of the tablet is inscribed with "ALBRECHT ALTORFER ZU REGENSPVRG FECIT" ("Albrecht Altdorfer from Regensburg made [this]"). Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/R Battery Tiny inscriptions on their chariot and harness identify Darius and Alexander, respectively. Each army bears a banner that reports both its total strength and its future casualties. Anachronism is a major component of The Battle of Alexander at Issus. By dressing Alexander's men in 16th-century steel armour and Darius' men in Turkish battle dress, Altdorfer draws deliberate parallels between the Macedonian campaign and the contemporary European–Ottoman conflict. SONY PCG-8113M battery In 1529 – the year of the painting's commissioning – the Ottoman forces under Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to the Austrian city of Vienna. Although far inferior in number, the Austrian, German, Czech, and Spanish soldiers marshalled to defend Vienna were able to force the enemy into a retreat and stall the Ottoman advance on central Europe. SONY PCG-8112M battery It is probable the painting's underlying allegory was inspired by the siege of Vienna, given its similarities to Alexander's victory at Issus. Some critics go further, suggesting that the inclusion of anachronism may have been an element of Altdorfer's commission. In his Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, historian Reinhart Koselleck discusses Altdorfer's representation of time in a more philosophical light. SONY VAIO PCG-81111V battery After differentiating between the superficial anachronism found in the casualty figures on the army banners and the deeper anachronism ingrained in the painting's contemporary context, he posits that the latter type is less a superimposition of one historical event over another and more an acknowledgement of the recursive nature of history. SONY VAIO PCG-81211V battery With reference to Koselleck, Kathleen Davis argues: "... for [Altdorfer], 4th-century Persians look like 16th-century Turks not because he does not know the difference, but because the difference does not matter ... The Alexanderschlacht, in other words, exemplifies a premodern, untemporalized sense of time and a lack of historical consciousness ... SONY VAIO PCG-51111V battery Altdorfer's historical overlays evince an eschatological vision of history, evidence that the 16th century (and by degrees also the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) remained locked in a static, constant temporality that proleptically saturates the future as always a repetition of the same ... In such a system there can be no event as such: SONY VAIO PCG-51111M battery anticipation and arrival are together sucked into the black hole of sacred history, which is not temporalized because its time is essentially undifferentiated ..." Featured alongside the anachronism in The Battle of Alexander at Issus is a genuine lack of historicity. Altdorfer demonstrates minimal hesitance in neglecting the painting's historical integrity for the sake of its heroic style, in spite of the pains he took to research the battle. SONY VAIO PCG-51112M battery That the Persian army was up to twice the size of the Macedonian army is not clear, and the relative positioning of the soldiers as reported by ancient sources has been disregarded. According to art critic Rose-Marie Hagen, "The artist was faithful to the historical truth only when it suited him, when historical facts were compatible with the demands of his composition." SONY VAIO PCG-51211M battery Hagen also notes the historically baseless inclusion of women on the battlefield, attributing it to Altdorfer's "passion for invention" and saying they "look like German courtly ladies, dressed for a hunting party" in their feathered toques. Altdorfer's primary point of reference in his research was probably Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedelsche Weltchronik), SONY VAIO PCG-51212M battery an illustrated world history published in Nuremberg in 1493. Schedel was a physician, humanist, historian and cartographer, and his Chronicle was one of the first books produced on the printing press. With a heavy reliance on the Bible, it recounts the seven ages of human history, from Creation to the birth of Christ and ending with theApocalypse. SONY PCG-7134M battery Altdorfer's statistics for the battle of Issus mirror those of Schedel. Furthermore, the errors in Schedel's maps of the Mediterranean and Northern Africa are also present in The Battle of Alexander at Issus: the island of Cyprus is noticeably oversized, and both the mountain rise in the painting's centre and the range adjacent to the Nile do not exist. SONY PCG-7131M battery Since the Chronicle describes Alexander's victory over the Persians in terms of its proximity to Tarsus and omits mention of Issus, it is likely that the cityscape by the sea is intended to be the former city rather than the latter. Issus in the 16th century was minor and relatively unknown, whereas Tarsus was renowned for its having been a major centre of learning and philosophy in Roman times. Sony VAIO PCG-5N1M battery Tarsus was also said to be the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, which may explain the presence of the church towers in Altdorfer's portrayal. Another source may have been the writings of Quintus Curtius Rufus, a 1st-century Roman historian who presents inflated figures for the number of killed and taken prisoner and the sizes of the armies. Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M battery The sky bears overt metaphorical significance and is the centrepiece of the painting's symbolism. Alexander, identified by the Egyptians and others as a god of the sun, finds his victory in the sun's rays; and the Persians are routed into the darkness beneath the crescent moon, a symbol of the Near East. Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/W Battery Considered in terms of the painting's contemporary context, the sun's triumph over the moon represents Christendom's victory over the Islamism of the Ottomans.Eschatological meaning, probably inspired by prophecies in the Book of Daniel, is imbued in the heavenly setting. In particular, Daniel 7 predicts the rise and fall of four kingdoms before the Second Coming; Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/P Battery these were thought to be Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome at the time of the painting's creation. Altdorfer saw the Battle of Issus as a principal indicator of the transition of power from Persia to Greece, and thus as an event of cosmic significance. The battle also marked a progression toward the end of the world – an important theological concern in the 16th century, Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/R Battery given that the last traces of Rome were diminishing with the papacy. As a member of the Regensburg council and a practising Catholic, Altdorfer frequently interacted with the Church and was surely aware of this trend of eschatological thought. Schedel, too, had calculated that the final age of the seven he identified was nigh.[66Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/L Battery ] It may therefore be inferred that the sky's expression of the momentous event at Issus was intended to be of contemporary relevance as well. The Battle of Alexander at Issus remained part of the royal collection of the Dukes of Bavaria for centuries. By the late 18th century, it was regularly featured in public galleries at the Schleissheim Palace. Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/P Battery The painting was one of 72 taken to Paris in 1800 by the invading armies of Napoleon I (1769–1821), who was a noted admirer of Alexander the Great.The Louvre held it until 1804, when Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France and took it for his own use. When thePrussians captured the Château de Saint-Cloud in 1814 as part of the War of the Sixth Coalition, they supposedly found the painting hanging in Napoleon's bathroom. Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/R Battery The Battle of Alexander at Issus and 26 others taken in the 1800 invasion were subsequently restored to the King of Bavariain 1815. Five of the paintings in William IV's original set of eight – including The Battle of Alexander at Issus – later passed from the royal collection to the Alte Pinakothek art museum in Munich, Germany, where they remain; Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M battery the other three are in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm, having been looted by the Swedish army in the Thirty Years War of 1618–1648. Susannah and the Elders is the only other work by Altdorfer in the Alte Pinakothek. Contextually, the painting forms part of the Northern Renaissance, a resurgence of classical humanism and culture in northern Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. Sony VAIO PCG-7171M battery The Renaissance induced a new kind of social individualism which Altdorfer expressed through the heroic emphasis on Alexander and Darius, and which is reflected in the specifics of the painting's commission and by the subjects of its companion pieces: "During the Renaissance people no longer saw themselves solely as members of a social group, Sony VAIO PCG-7186M battery as the citizens of a town, or as sinners before God in whose eyes all were equal. They had become aware of the unique qualities that distinguished one person from another. Unlike the Middle Ages, the Renaissance celebrated the individual. Altdorfer may have painted row after row of apparently identical warriors, but the spectators themselves would identify with Alexander and Darius, Sony VAIO PCG-81112M battery figures who had names, whose significance was indicated by the cord which hung down from the tablet above them."Altdorfer was not only a pioneer of landscape, but also a practitioner of early incarnations of the Romanticism and expressionism which impacted the arts so greatly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sony VAIO PCG-31111M battery Kenneth Clark writes of Altdorfer and contemporaries Grünewald and Bosch, "They are what we now call 'expressionist' artists, a term which is not as worthless as it sounds, because, in fact, the symbols of expressionism are remarkably consistent, and we find in the work of these early 16th-century landscape painters not only the same spirit but the same shapes and iconographical motives which recur in the work of such recent expressionists as van Gogh, Sony VAIO PCG-31311M battery Max Ernst, Graham Sutherland and Walt Disney." According to art critic Pia F. Cuneo, "Altdorfer's construction of landscape on a cosmic scale" in the Battle of Alexander at Issus, and his "spiritual and aesthetic affinities with Romanticism and Modern art (in particular,German Expressionism)", "have been especially singled out for praise". Sony VAIO PCG-8152M battery The Battle of Alexander at Issus is typically considered to be Altdorfer's masterpiece. Cuneo states that the painting is usually "considered in splendid isolation from its fifteen other companion pieces, based on the assumption that it either metonymically stands in for the entire cycle, or that its perceived aesthetic predominance merits exclusive focus." Sony VAIO PCG-8131M battery German writer Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) was one of many who saw the painting in the Louvre and marvelled, calling it a "small painted Iliad". Reinhart Koselleck comments that Altdorfer's depiction of the thousands of soldiers was executed with "a mastery previously unknown", and Kathleen Davis describes the painting as "epochal in every sense".Sony VAIO VPCF117FJ battery The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC. The invading Macedonian troops, led byAlexander the Great, defeated an army led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle of Alexander's conquest of Asia. After the Macedonians soundly defeated the Persian satraps of Asia Minor (led by the Greek mercenary, Sony VAIO VPCF118FJ battery Memnon of Rhodes) at the Battle of the Granicus, Darius took personal command of his army. He gathered reinforcements and led his men in a surprise march behind the Macedonian advance to cut their line of supply. This forced Alexander to countermarch, setting the stage for the battle near the mouth of the Pinarus River and the town of Issus. Sony VAIO VPCF11AFJ battery The battle took place south of the ancient town Issus, which is close to present-day Turkish town of Iskenderun(the Turkish equivalent of "Alexandria", founded by Alexander to commemorate his victory), on either side of a small river called Pinarus. At that location the distance from the gulf of Issus to the surrounding mountains is only 2.6 km (2 mi), Sony VAIO VPCF11AGJ battery a place where Darius could not take advantage of his superiority in numbers. Speculation on the location of the Pinarus has taken place for over 80 years. Older historians believed it to be the Deli Tchairiver, but historians N.G.L. Hammond and A.M. Devine have made convincing claims that the Pinarus is actually thePayas River, the latter using eye-witness examination of the river, Sony VAIO VPCF11AHJ battery which may not have drastically changed since antiquity. Their evidence is based on Callisthenes' accounts of the measurements of the battlefield and distances marched by both side's armies in the prelude to the battle and distance given by Diodorus after the battle. Alexander set out into Asia in 334 BC and defeated the local Persian satraps at the Battle of the Granicus. Sony VAIO VPCF11ZHJ battery He then proceeded to occupy all of Asia Minor, with the idea of capturing all coastal settlements so as to negate the power of the vastly superior Persian fleet. He captured several important settlements such as Miletus in 334 BC and Halicarnassus, a siege lasting four months, starting in late December the same year. While Alexander was in Tarsus he heard of Darius massing a great army in Babylon. Sony VAIO VPCF127FJ/W battery If Darius were to reach the Gulf of Issus he could use the support from the Persian fleet under Pharnabazus still operating in the Mediterranean Sea, thus easing his supply and possibly landing troops behind the enemy. Alexander kept his main army at Tarsus but sentParmenion ahead to occupy the coast around Issus. Sony VAIO VPCF128FJ/B battery In November, Alexander received reports that the great Persian army had advanced into Syria, to a town named Sochi. Alexander decided to mass his scattered army and advance south from Issus through the Pass of Jonah. Darius knew that Parmenion held the Pass of Jonah and thus chose a northern route of advance. Sony VAIO VPCF129FJ/BI battery The Persians captured Issus without opposition, and cut off the hands of all the sick and wounded that Alexander had left behind. Now Darius found out he had placed his army behind the Macedonians and had cut their supply lines. He then advanced to the south and got no further than the river Pinarus before his scouts spotted Alexander marching north. Sony VAIO VPCF12AFJ battery Darius had to set up camp on this narrow coastal plain.