BERN.-Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy (14331477) was one of the richest and most powerful princes of the 15th century. His volatile life, his dramatic end and the lavish court culture of the Burgundian Dukes are the main focal points of a spectacular special exhibition being held in Berns Historisches Museum. Charles the Bold was one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Ambitious, unremitting in his striving for power and prestige, he turned the Duchy of Burgundy in the fourth generation into an important force in late-medieval Europe.
Brilliant court life high-prestige loans - Charles the Bold underlined his rise to prominence with a magnificent court life. Works of art were created to this end that count among the most beautiful that European art history has to offer. With high-prestige loans from over 40 national and international museums, the exhibition on Charles the Bold (14331477) is showing a brilliant selection of works of art covering all genres of art: the finest goldsmiths work, magnificent tapestries, precious book illuminations, panel paintings, parade armour, jewellery, medals, and so on. For example, Hans Memlings famous triptych, painted for the Bruges merchant Wille Moreel, a masterpiece of Early Netherlandish painting from the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, is being shown for the first time in Switzerland. With the gold votive statue from Liège and the famous Prayer Book of Charles the Bold from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, two innovative masterworks that had once influenced each other are being brought together for the first time in 500 years. An important lender is also the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna: from its collections the exhibition is showing not only magnificent parade armour, but also Leone Leonis famous bronze bust of the Habsburg Emperor Charles V. Six wonderful Burgundian illuminated manuscripts from the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels can also be admired.
His daughter in exchange for a royal crown - In his bid to achieve sovereignty and royal dignity, Charles the Bold tried to marry off his only daughter Maria to Maximilian, the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. But the marriage did not take place and Charles dream of a great kingdom of his own between France and the Holy Roman Empire ended on a battlefield.
Battles and Burgundian booty - Charles the Bold was defeated by the Swiss Confederates and their allies in the battles of Grandson and Morat. One of the largest booties of war in world history fell as a result into the hands of the victorious Confederates. The tapestries and precious gold fabrics of the legendary Burgundian booty now form the core of the collection of the Historisches Museum in Bern. Charles the Bold met his death in the Battle of Nancy in 1477.
Habsburg and the Burgundian marriage - With Charles death on the battlefield of Nancy, the map of Europe fundamentally changed. The realm straddling the lands between France and the German Empire was dissolved. In the very year as his death, Charles daughter Maria of Burgundy, under pressure from all sides, married the emperors son Maximilian. The Burgundian inheritance thus fell into the hands of the Habsburg dynasty, which two generations later, under Charles V (15001558), grandson of Charles the Bold, rose to become a world power with vast overseas possessions spanning the globe. The exhibition in Bern unfolds Burgundys whole history from its rise under Charles the Bolds father, Philip the Good, to the climax of the Habsburg Empire under Charles V. It turns historical connections into a vivid experience.
A piece of European history as an enduring experience - So the exhibition is addressed not just at art lovers, but also at a broader public. The exhibition management under Peter Jezler, Susan Marti, Raphael Barbier and Gabriele Keck has once again pursued an interdisciplinary approach. In partnership, an exhibition concept was developed in which outstanding works of art and a highly dramatic historical narrative are skilfully combined. With its lavish staging and targeted deployment of new media, the exhibition aims to provide a broad public with an enduring experience and make an important piece of European history more familiar.
Princely summit in Trier Highpoint of medieval pageantry - The famous meeting between the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III and Charles the Bold in Trier in 1473, for example, will be recreated in the exhibition, so that visitors will feel they are able to participate in the festivities. A large-scale functional grandstand, built solidly of oak wood, has to this end been erected in the main hall of the Historisches Museum. From this vantage point the public will be able to look down on the encounter between the two princes. The magnificent horse armour of Frederick III stands opposite the ducal throne of Charles the Bold, reconstructed using original textiles. Charles the Bold negotiated for weeks with the emperor in Trier in his bid to be raised to the rank of king. To achieve his goal, he met the emperor with incomparable pomp and pageantry.
Precious secular and liturgical furnishings, magnificent embroidered textiles, silver tableware, reliquaries of gold and silver, sumptuous parade armour, court baubles and toys, and exquisite Burgundian fashions can be seen in their originals in the exhibition. Nor are the more transient genres of art, theatrical performances, dancing and music, forgotten. The exhibition also includes these aspects with vivid animation films in its own specially erected mini-cinema.