Named after Maximilian I’s literary alter ego, Freydal is the largest extant tournament book of the Late Middle Ages, inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World program. Taschen’s publication with Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum commemorates the 500th anniversary of Maximilian’s death, combining for the first time all 255 gold- and silver-heightened miniatures with an introductory essay and explanatory texts.
Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) of the Holy Roman Empire treated the spectacle of his tournaments, hastiludes, and mummeries as an art form in itself. One of modern Europe’s most important sovereigns, he shaped the continent’s political map well into the 20th century, not least due to his keen awareness of the power of a good public display towards diplomacy and networking.
From 1512 to 1515, Maximilian commissioned a massive, exquisitely detailed and illustrated manuscript of the 64 tournaments. The 255 elaborately gilt and silvered miniatures were more than just a collection of jousting scenes from the Habsburg court—from the grand melee and tilting at the lists to foot combat and closing ceremonies—they were an allegorical epic telling the story of an intrepid hero, a knight errant who is none other than Maximilian himself. In the guise of his literary alter ego “Freydal”, the Emperor jousted to prove his love for a noble lady. The story ends with the lady agreeing to marry him—she is no other than Mary of Burgundy, who Maximilian wed in 1477 at Ghent.
Produced under the direct supervision of Maximilian himself, Freydal is an invaluable record of late-medieval chivalry, one which introduces us to the jousts that the Emperor revived and even invented—such as the spectacular Rennen mit geschifften Tartschen, where shields would be catapulted into the sky and disintegrated into metal wedges. To this day, it remains the largest extant tournament book from the Late Middle Ages and the essential source on European courtly festivities of the early modern era. Much too fragile to be on permanent display, the miniatures are safely locked away in the vaults of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
To celebrate the fifth centenary of Emperor Maximilian I’s death, TASCHEN reproduces the complete 255 miniatures in full-colour photographs, making the unique manuscript accessible to all for the very first time. The astounding collection is introduced by Stefan Krause, director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Imperial Armoury, who tells its fascinating story.
The publication is being supported by exhibitions from March 15th – November 3rd in Vienna, May 25th – October 12th in Innsbruck, June 15th – September 15th in Augsburg, July 27th – November 03rd in Dietenheim, and October 3rd, – January 05th, 2020 in New York.
Freydal. Medieval Games. The Book of Tournaments of Emperor Maximilian I
Hardcover, 36 x 36 cm, 448 pages
Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Availability: April 2019