The Flemish artist Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) was a master of Mannerism, serving a cardinal, a pope, and two Holy Roman Emperors—most notably, as court painter for Rudolf II in Prague. Unlike most artists of the period, he defies classification as “Northern” or “Southern”; instead, Spranger became one of the first truly international artists, achieving his greatest success in Central Europe after spending a crucial decade in Italy. Favoring an elegant style, virtuoso technique, and erotically charged subjects, he was particularly celebrated for his amorously entwined nudes. In addition, he created paintings, drawings, and prints of evocative religious and political allegories, as well as atmospheric landscapes and a few rare portraits, all of which offer an abundance of visual pleasure.
Despite the widespread fame and influence he attained during his lifetime, Spranger has become an elusive and misunderstood figure. Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague is the first book in English to be devoted to his art and life. It contains four sections—on paintings, drawings, etchings, and engravings related to his work—that chronicle his stylistic genesis and capture the complexity of his prolific oeuvre. Examining Spranger’s career against the backdrop of European culture, politics, and intellectual history, the book traces his artistic journey from Antwerp to Prague, with sojourns along the way in France, Italy, and Vienna. The detailed catalogue entries, including several newly discovered works, illuminate his development and reshape our understanding of it. The result is a major contribution to art history, restoring Bartholomeus Spranger to his rightful position as one of the most important and influential artists of the era.