Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I - Graz Codex

Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I - Graz Codex – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Rara 1   III 11722 – Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany)

Wien (Austria) — 1526

A splendid work of Renaissance propaganda created by the finest engravers of the period: 99 colored woodcuts depicting the most triumphal moments from the reign of Emperor Maximilian I

  1. The monumental series of woodcuts was incomplete upon the death of Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519)

  2. A first edition was published in 1526 at the behest of his grandson Archduke Ferdinand (1503–64)

  3. This codex, a first edition, was colored after being acquired in 1765 by the Jesuit College in Graz

Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I - Graz Codex

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I - Graz Codex

Although often referred to as “the last knight”, Emperor Maximilian I was one of the first rulers to understand the use of propaganda as a mean of creating an image of himself for both the contemporary public and posterity as well. He also understood the power of the printing press and patronized the most talented engravers. The Triumphal Procession or Triumphs of Maximilian is a monumental series of woodcuts that measures approximately 54 meters in length and was designed by Albrecht Altdorfer, who captured both the solemnity and festivity of the participants in the triumphs.
Hans Burgkmair, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Spinginklee, Leonhard Beck, Hans Schäufelein, Wolf Huber, and Albrecht Dürer all contributed engravings to the project. Originally designed for 210 illustrations, 137 were completed at the time of Maximilian’s death in 1519. The Graz Codex consists of 99 woodcuts, which were colored in 1765. They are not reproduced in the correct order and are mounted in pairs on a passe-partout, but this "wrong" order is now part of the historical value of the work.

Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I – Graz Codex

The most important and extensive of the works commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519) is his Triumphal Procession, which does not depict an actual event but rather an imaginary parade in honor of the Emperor, who conceived of this work himself in 1512. The project was completed in 1515 by the German Renaissance master Albrecht Altdorfer (ca. 1480–1538). This unique and magnificent work is inspired by the festive processions of victorious emperors in Rome and their adaptations in the Italian Renaissance but appears as a contemporary pageant with depictions of the most important people and events from the emperor's life. Furthermore, it is filled with detailed depictions of clothing including the extravagantly dressed landsknechts as well as armor, weapons, canons, horses, wagons, and other equipment from the early 16th century.

An All-Star Team of Artists

The list of names involved in the creation of these woodcuts includes some of the greatest artists of the German Renaissance: the design for 67 of the woodblocks is attributed to Jörg Kölderer, who served as Maximilian’s court painter in Tyrol from 1494 to 1518. 38 blocks were designed by Albrecht Altdorfer, 20 by Hans Springinklee, 7 by Leonhard Beck, 2 from Wolf Huber and even Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) contributed 2 including his famous Large Triumphal Carriage. These designs were cut between 1516 and 1519 by a large team of block-cutters led by Jost de Negker that included Hieronymus Andreae, Cornelis Liefrinck, and Willem Liefrinck. 139 blocks were complete when Maximilian died, and many portraits of various courtiers and nobles were never made. Nonetheless, the Triumphal Procession stands out as a masterpiece of both art and propaganda that reflects Maximilian’s tremendous intelligence and vision.

The First Edition

This first edition print from 1526 originally consisted of 109 woodcuts, 99 of which are preserved in the Graz University Library, which is attested to by a watermark consisting of a crowned double-headed eagle with a sickle on its breastplate that appears on 43 of the leaves. These prints measuring ca. 41 cm × 37 cm were colored by Josef Höger in 1765 with the assistance of an apprentice who colored the backgrounds. Although the Graz Codex is incomplete and is missing the triumphal chariots, all but two depictions of prisoners of war. It does include prints of two woodblocks that were lost after the initial printing: one depicts Maximilian’s 1477 marriage to Mary of Burgundy (1457–82) and the other the beginning of the baggage train. The illustrations were put in the incorrect order when the Graz Codex was bound and can be divided into the following sections: heralds and standard bearers introduce the procession, followed by musicians, on foot and on chariots, then soldiers, hunters, and tournament riders. The final part of the procession is – correctly – the baggage train full of military gear and various everyday objects.

History of the Codex

There is evidence of the woodblocks in the inventory of the treasury of Graz Castle during the 16th century, where it is described as: “Item unterschiedlich größere und kleinere Holzstich, so thails zerstäet, thails aber zusamben gebunden” and “Ein große Truchen, warinen allerlei schrüften und auf Papier gedruckhte Holzstich”. A letter dated 1591 from Maria Anna of Bavaria to her brother, Duke Wilhelm V, describes the incredible beauty and uniqueness of the woodcuts. The work was still in the personal possession of the Hapsburgs in 1765 when Empress Maria Theresa divided it up and gave it away to three court officials. Incredibly, they were somehow described as “insignificant pieces” at the time. In the same year, the leaves and accompanying woodblocks were acquired by the Jesuit College in Graz, which stored them for a time in the mathematical tower, an observatory of the old university. It was here that they were colored by Josef Höger. After the college’s dissolution, the leaves and the woodblocks came into the possession of the University Library of Graz and the woodblocks were eventually returned to Vienna in the late-18th century.


Alternative Titles
Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilians I. - Grazer Codex
Size / Format
198 pages / 41.0 × 37.0 cm
99 colored woodcut prints
Emperor Maximilian I
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian I - Graz Codex – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Rara 1   III 11722 – Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz,
Limited Edition: 150 copies
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