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Hans Khevenhüller at the Court of Philip II of Spain

Hans Khevenhüller at the Court of Philip II of Spain


From the author of critically acclaimed The Global City (PHP 2015), this sumptuous and highly original book is about the remarkable, exotic collections of the 16th-century Habsburg courts and the incredible importance of one man in shaping them – imperial ambassador, advisor, cultural broker, artistic agent, patron of the arts and collector, Hans Khevenhüller.


The quest for the exotic became an obsession for Renaissance princes and collectors, as markets in Lisbon and Seville were flooded by the mid 16th century with luxury goods, commodities, Ming porcelain, exotica, textiles, clothes, dress accessories and strange animals imported from Portuguese Asia, the Far East, Africa and the Americas. Shopping on a grand scale became a priority, especially for the Central European courts of the Habsburg, whose collections, known as Kunstkammers, represented their symbolic hegemony over a world empire, its peoples, flora and fauna. 


One man in particular played  formidable part in the expansion of these Habsburg Kunstkammers – Hans Khevenhüller, imperial ambassador in Spain. As diplomat, he assumed diverse roles at the Spanish court – politician, advisor, cultural broker, artistic agent, patron of the arts and collector. His global networks spanned continents, linking Habsburg courts across Europe with new worlds. Appointed in the early 1570s resident ambassador at the court of Philip II, he was a keen observer of the Spanish court, meticulously recording peoples, events and happenings. Crossing ceremonial boundaries, Khevenhüller became a trusted friend and counselor of Philip II and his royal family, gaining admission into their private lives. His diary and largely unpublished correspondence are remarkable for the insights, commentaries and information he provides about contemporaries and their courts, fellow diplomats and Habsburg patrons – Maximilian II, Rudolf II, Ferdinand II of Tyrol, Karl II of Inner Austria and his wife, Maria of Bavaria.


A true Renaissance man, with cultivated tastes and a discerning eye, Khevenhüller was single-handedly responsible for the acquisition of live animals, exotica, luxury goods, jewelry, precious stones, spices and drugs, including seeds and plants from overseas. In Spain, Venice, Vienna and Prague he sponsored and patronized painters, architects, goldsmiths, jewelers and artisans.  


Beginning with an introduction to the great man’s background, political career and personal ties at the Habsburg court, chapters cover Khevenhüller’s diplomatic world in Madrid, Vienna and Prague; his patronage in Italy; his involvement with the pleasure palaces, gardens and imperial menageries of Emperor Maximilian II; German agents as cultural mediators; Khevenhüller’s role as art agent and intermediary in Spain, buying art, jewels, tapestries, luxury goods from Asia and the Americas, Andalusian horses, medicines and exotic plants; his dealings with the Spanish embassy of Adam von Dietrichstein and Margarita de Cardona, with the Graz court, Ferdinand II of Tyrol, Archduke Albert of Austria, the ‘Casa del Rey’, the library of the imperial ambassador Jorge Fernández Santos; 1607 posthumous inventory and estate auction. The appendix provides transcriptions of related documents, correspondence and inventories. 

  • Edited by Annemarie Jordan Gschwend

    Hans Khevenhüller at the Court of Philip II of Spain: Diplomacy & Consumerism in a Global Empire


    November 2020

    Hardback, 280 x 240 mm

    ISBN 978 1 911300 00 7

    240 pages, 150 colour illus.


  • Contributions by

    Annemarie Jordan Gschwend, Vanessa de Cruz Medina, Martin Malcolm Elbl and Jorge Fernández-Santos Ortiz-Iribas 

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