Sketch for the painting Emperor Karl V. ca. 1913

For picture description see below.

JQAW# G_1913_010
Oil on canvas ca. 53 x 61cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams
Unknown private collection (USA?)
Picture: private photograph of the seller, unrestored condition as of 2021

Sketch for the planned monumental historical painting of Emperor Charles V. after the Battle of Mühlberg (24.4.1547).

This sketch for a monumental painting commissioned by the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand (assassinated in Sarajewo in 1914) for the New Hofburg in Vienna which was either not started or not completed, is one of two examples where the artist tried his hand as a history painter. (The second historical, but lost work, is the painting Arrival of Emperor Barbarossa at the Danube [1190] painted around 1908, which was intended for the Vienna City Hall).

The program of the Mühlberg painting is described in detail in a newspaper article from 1913 (see references): Depicted is the moment when Duke Alba (on a white horse) presents the captured Elector of Saxony and leader of the Schmalkaldic League (the union of Protestant princes) Johann Friedrich of Saxony (on a black horse) to the victorious Emperor Charles V. (on a brown horse in front of a huge red flag). The emperor refuses to salute him. The three mounted men are surrounded by numerous foot soldiers and standard bearers who observe the scene. In the background, a burning village with a column of smoke rising above it is visible under a cloudy sky.

The victory of the Catholic House of Habsburg over the Protestants at the Battle of Mühlberg was one of the many stages of the Counter-Reformation, but it ultimately failed to overcome the religious divide between Catholics and Protestants in the German Empire, and even reinforced it in the long run. Kaiser Karl V. celebrated his victory nonetheless. The famous 1548 equestrian portrait by Tizian (in the Prado, Madrid) was commissioned after the Battle of Mühlberg and has forever enshrined this battle in art history.

Adam's sketch, very much in the tradition of the Baroque bozzetto, is intended merely to give an overall impression of the planned monumental painting and is only very cursorily executed. The figures are shadowy, only the column of smoke rising above the burning village and the clouds are depicted more clearly. Remarkable for Adams are furthermore the strong contrasting colors, which capture the colorfulness of the Landsknecht uniforms aptly.

The painting was presented to the public on the occasion of the 1917 Adams exhibition, but as the newspaper article from 1913 proves, it was created earlier. However, the sketch remained unsold in 1917 despite the modest price of only 500 crowns and was returned to the artist on 28.3.1917. There is no information on the provenance of the painting, but it probably entered a private collection after 1917 and at a later date (probably in the course of the emigration of the racially or politically persecuted owners) travelled to North America. In 2022, the (restored) painting was offered at an online auction, but remained unsold due to the completely exaggerated asking price. Contact inquiries to the bringer remained unanswered.


Arrival of emperor Barbarossa at the Danube (in 1190) 1908 (work lost, no images available).


1917 Künstlerhaus Vienna collective exhibition John Quincy Adams, catalogue postscript, no number (EL 61 1916/17 #645)


2022 auction platform via Auction Network, Markam Ontario (CAN), Mixed Estate Sale 7.7.2022 Lot 300 (unsold).
Unknown private collection (likely USA).