Rudolf II supplementary materials

I was on a podcast!

I talked with Roejen and Lobo over at Project Archivist about one of Dee and Kelley’s great patrons, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.  He provided material support and political protection for alchemists, astrologers, scientists, and artists of all stripes. Perhaps not the most glittering court (he was a melancholic recluse who preferred the world to come to him), but he created a golden age of early modern science in Prague.

Here are some images of the Mad Emperor himself, some of the art he favored, and a disturbing family tree. All images Wikipedia Commons unless otherwise noted:

Portrait of Rudolf II
Rudolf II by Joseph Heinz the Elder, 1594, at the peak of his power as Holy Roman Emperor and art/science/occult studies patron.
Archduke Rudolf when he was about 15, by Spanish court painter Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1567. I’d love to know what’s up with the long red nails – some odd Spanish court fashion? Kids those days…
Habsburg family tree
An illustration of the Habsburg intermarriages and the end result. Anna of Austria was Rudolf II’s sister; they lived over 100 years before poor Charles II. From


Arcimboldo Librarian Stokholm
“The Librarian”, 1570 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. His inventive portraits influenced Surrealist artists 400 years later.

Bartholomäus Springers Venus and Adonis
Bartholomäus Spranger’s “Venus and Adonis”, 1595-1597. An example of the mythological-themed art with bonus naked ladies of which Rudolf was so fond.
Selected Bibliography:

Evans, R. J. W. (1973). Rudolf II and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576-1612. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fučíková, E. (1997). Rudolf II and Prague: The court and the city. Prague, New York, and London: Prague : Prague Castle Administration ; London ; New York : Thames and Hudson.

Marshall, P. (2006). The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague. Walker & Company.

Nummedal, T. (2007). Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Allison Thurman

Allison Thurman has always made stuff: out of fabric, metal, beads, even exaggerated fencing moves. Of late she makes stories out of weird history, with fragments of pop culture, unsolved mysteries, and science fiction mixed in for texture.

She lives in a galaxy far, far away (well, the DC metro area) with too many books and swords.

4 thoughts on “Rudolf II supplementary materials”

  1. Cool! Shall try to listen to the ‘cast sometime this weekend.

    And imagine my surprise at just now coming across a mention of Rudolph II in my re-read of the Unhistory. In the chapter on mandrakes; ’twas a very small mention:

    “Mandrake vendors — or, at least, one mandrake vendor — even reached the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph II, a man who was interested in all forms of contemporary science (including, of course, alchemy, astrology — and mandrakes): he bought two of them, and, being nobody’s fool, insisted that one be male and one be female. Then he put them in charge of his Imperial librarian. Perhaps the librarian felt restless at the responsibility, perhaps he had other reasons; at any rate he complained that the mandrakes shrieked and howled, to such an extent that they prevented him from sleeping, because they were not regularly bathed in wine! One hopes that the matter was promptly taken care of. At any rate, at last report, they were still in the Imperial Library. (Perhaps the librarian drank the wine! That would help him sleep!)”

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