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A motet for Ferdinand I - Praising the emperor by singing a coat of arms?

When Charles V died in a Spanish monastery in September 1558, his brother Ferdinand had already been proclaimed the new emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. To strengthen his position, Ferdinand I strove to display publicly his piety and virtue through visual art and music. A print published in Augsburg in 1559 serves as an example of this interdisciplinary practice. The two volumes contain exclusively music by the singer Johannes de Cleve, a member of the imperial chapel. The first one, which is dedicated to the emperor himself, surpasses normal motet anthologies of the time in decoration. The first motet of this volume is a unique example of the combining of art and music. In the Quintus/Sextus-partbook there is a small line of notes embedded in the imperial coat of arms replacing the regular staff. The musicians singing or playing from these books are literally singing a coat of arms. The text of the other voices is also related to the insignia of the emperor, so one might speculate that the motet was composed just to be presented as part of the coat of arms of the emperor. In fact there is a rich and multifaceted tradition of music related to heraldry going back at least to the 15th century.

This paper investigates the connection between art and music in Cleve's 1559 Augsburg music and reveals concepts and traditions behind his prints. It aims to show the very special connection of art and music as key element in the policy of Ferdinand I.