By Stephanie Crowley
Honors Thesis, Florida State University, 2011
Abstract: The Bohemian Charles IV (1316 – 1378) was crowned King of Bohemia in 1347, King of the Romans in 1349, and Holy Roman Emperor in 1355. At the time of his death, he had successfully expanded the borders of the Holy Roman Empire to include the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Duchy of Pomerania, and he had himself crowned King of Lombardy. The artwork Charles IV commissioned played a major legitimizing role in this imperial expansion. My study investigates the artistic program of Charles IV in relation to his active promotion of religious cults devoted to three carefully selected saints; St. Wenceslas, St. Charlemagne, and St. Sigismund.
I argue that the emperor employed a widespread and calculated artistic program to lay the foundations for his dynasty by creating strong visual ties between himself, his heirs, and the aforementioned royal saints while simultaneously promoting local devotion to those saints. In a detailed examination of the Crowned Reliquaries of Charles IV, the Holy Cross Chapel, and the Madonna of John Očko of Vlašim, I will prove the effectiveness of the emperor’s expansive artistic campaign in shaping the way he was perceived in contemporary society, despite his contested ascent to the Bohemian and imperial thrones. I argue that the widespread artistic program of Charles IV was ultimately successful because, by the end of his rule, propagandistic themes common to artwork commissioned by the emperor were present in privately commissioned artwork as well.