“You don’t think we’re being too philosophical?” I wondered aloud, worrying at my lip with my fingers.
“This is the court of Rudolf II,” Hoefnagel said drily. “There is no such thing as too philosophical.”
The Rudolf II of the All Souls Trilogy is complicated — a villainous, lecherous man who just happens to patronize and support some of the greatest artists of his time. The Met Museum has several of the items from Rudolf’s Kunstkammer on display to include the images featured here: the celestial globe by Gerhard Emmoser, a female nude in the style of Albrect Durer, a bronze Apollo by Adriaen de Vries, and this allegorical relief by Hans Daucher:
As this essay notes, the bulk of Rudolf’s collection was dispersed after his death — however, you can see many of the items that once belonged to his court at the Kunstkammer Museum in Vienna. Several of these items are on virtual display, including this ball runner clock by Christoph Margraf and this mechanical celestial globe by Johannes Reinhold the Elder and Georg Roll. The curator’s notes also reveal fascinating details about life in Rudolf’s court… like how he had Roll locked up in prison when the globe he delivered didn’t work as promised. Charming. True to Shadow of Night, the curator’s notes also reveal that Rudolf had, err, “a penchant for erotic-mythological subject matters” such as this extremely disturbing painting of Leda and the Swan by Joseph Heintz the Elder. I cannot unsee this.
Signor Pasetti was delighted to teach some of the court ladies a “dance of the wandering stars,” which would provide Matthew something heavenly to observe while he waited for his beloved moon to appear.
Blame quarantine, y’all, but I definitely fell down a Renaissance dance YouTube hole. Our friend Signor Pasetti did, in fact, exist (and he was the imperial dancing master for Rudolf II), but I couldn’t find any preserved examples of his choreography. What I did find was examples of the hopping dance known as the galliard and the stately pavane. Embedded below is a video that purports to demonstrate Czech folk and court dances of the Renaissance. I have no idea, as I was not there, but I’ll buy it for purposes of imagining the dance of the wandering stars.
You can learn more about Renaissance dance types (and watch helpful videos) via the U.S. Library of Congress.
“It is a mark of respect, Herr Roydon.” Rudolf placed a subtle emphasis on the name, “This once belonged to King Vladislaus and was passed on to my grandmother. The insignia belongs to a brave company of Hungarian knights known as the Order of the Defeated Dragon.”
Rudolf may be referring to the Order of the Dragon, or the Societas Draconistarum, a monarchical chivalric order founded by Sigismund von Luxembourg that sought to fight the Ottoman Empire, defend the Hungarian monarchy, and defend the Catholic Church. The order chose as its symbol the defeated dragon slain by St. George, sometimes depicted as a ouroboros with a red cross. Vlad II Dracul, Prince of Wallachia (and father of Dracula!), was a member of the order. According to Wikipedia, there aren’t many surviving historical examples of the original emblem… which is probably why my internet searches turned up a lot of very modern jewelry portraying dragons and no beautifully-embellished, jewel-encrusted chains like the one Rudolf gives Diana in 1591. I like to imagine that she left it behind and 16th Century Matthew lost it.
I tried extremely hard to find an image of the phallic cabbage root Diana mentions from the Kunstkammer, but alas — the internet failed me. In our next installment for the Real-Time Reading, we’re fleeing Prague under cover of night. I hope you packed your red hose.
Between now and then, you can find our back catalogue of episodes here or you can get in touch with us by e-mailing us, following us on Twitter, or by becoming a member of our Facebook group. As a reminder, we’re starting our chapter-by-chapter discussion of TIME’S CONVERT beginning THIS SUNDAY, 12 April 2020. We can’t wait to see what you have to say!
Until next time,
Cait and Jen