Toy Knights of King Louis II
Similar toy figures armed for the joust of war were the gift of Emperor Maximilian II who gave them to the future King Louis II, his adopted son. Louis, King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia was the one who died in the Battle of Mohács in 1526 when he was just 20 years old.
You can watch the animation video of the Battle of Mohács with English subtitles here:
Unfortunately, the young brave king whose queen, Habsburg Maria had sent him against the Ottomans, received no real soldiers from his Austrian relatives before the battle. Yet, after his death, the German mercenaries of Emperor Charles V., right after the Sack of Rome in 1527, hurried to Hungary to support Habsburg Ferdinand’s claim to the Hungarian throne.
The figures in the picture were made around 1505 in Mühlau near Innsbruck, Austria. Each bronze figure is 11 cm high and 6.5 cm wide and can be found in the Kunsthistoriche Museum of Vienna, Austria.
Late medieval and early modern toys are rare. Each of these toys has a horse, mounted onto a base plate with functioning spoked wheels, and a rider riveted to the saddle allowing it to tilt backward when struck by an opponent’s lance.
Such a game is depicted in Hans Burgkmair’s well-known woodcut from the chapter on the education of a young prince in the book called Weisskunig. The book emphasizes the importance of tournaments as models of combat in the education of noble boys.
These toys are thought to have been commissioned for Maximilian’s grandsons, Charles V and Ferdinand I, to whom the Weisskunig was dedicated.
We know that Maximilian also ordered two similar toys for young King Louis II of Hungary in 1516 from armorer Kolman Helmshmid, demonstrating his personal interest in the education of his descendants.
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