RUDOLF II OF HABSBURG, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR

(1552-1612)
Rudolf II, one of history's most eccentric individuals, was a ruler, a madman, an alchemist, and a patron of the arts. Rudolf's historical distinction comes not from his political accomplishments but from the people he brought to his court and from his Kunstkammer, which included collected and commissioned art­works.
Rudolf's own modest childhood education at the court of his uncle, Philip II* of Spain, perhaps prompted him as an adult to bring to Prague some of the greatest minds and talents of his age. Not without his own talent, Rudolf re­portedly spoke German, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and some Bohemian and Czech; however, as a ruler, he withdrew from much of his political re­sponsibility and chose to fashion his imperial image through the arts.
Crowned king of Hungary in 1572, king of Bohemia in 1575, and holy Roman emperor in 1576 after the death of Maximilian II, his father, Rudolf II estab­lished Prague as his royal residence in 1583. Rudolf's patronage made Prague home to scholars, artists, painters, alchemists, craftsmen, architects, and astrol­ogers, among those of name were Tycho Brahe,* Johannes Kepler,* Bartholo-maeus Spranger,* Giuseppe Arcimboldo,* Giambattista Della Porta,* and John Dee.* During his life Rudolf acquired a collection of artworks, especially paint­ings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, sketches, books, manuscripts, scientific instruments, tapestries, gems, stones, fossils, shells, and bones. Aside from his participation in the arts, in his later years Rudolf developed a passion for the occult sciences: alchemy and magic.
Nearing the end of his life, Rudolf II relinquished the Hungarian crown in 1608 and the Bohemian crown in 1611 to Matthias, his brother and successor. After Rudolf's death, Matthias greedily claimed much of the collection, which had been appraised at seventeen million ducats, and transported it to Vienna. With Rudolf's death and the removal of his collection, Prague never reclaimed its artistic notoriety.
Bibliography
R.J.W. Evans, RudolfII and His World, 1973.
E. Fucikova, ed., RudolfII and Prague: The Court and the City, 1997.
Stephanie Witham

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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