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Charles V

Trained as a goldsmith and medalist, Leone Leoni applied the technical skill required for these crafts to his bronze sculptures. In 1549, he was invited to the Brussels court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a meeting that resulted in a number of portrait commissions, including, presumably, this bust. Leoni’s sculpture presents a carefully crafted image of the emperor. Charles’s crown of laurel leaves and the toga draped around his shoulders visually connect him to the ancient Roman emperors. Likewise, the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a chivalric order aligned with the Roman Catholic Church, indicates the emperor’s ecclesiastical allegiance at a time when Europe was in the throes of the Protestant Reformation.

Leone Leoni
Italian, ca. 1509–1590
Charles V
ca. 1550
Bronze and gilding
8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm); with base: 13 3/8 in. (34.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 70.47