Friday, November 19, 2010

Respect My Authoritah!

A page of handwritten text, surrounded by an elaborate, pictorial border.Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, ruler of half of Europe and a goodly portion of the New World, may not have respected Cartman's "authoritah" but he would have agreed with the sentiment. This grant of arms to Nicholas de Almacan of Arequipa, Peru, from May 14, 1552, features Charles V in the center of the illuminated border.  Facing the reader, he is flanked by an image of Caesar on the right and the conquistador Pizarro on the left, both ceding their authority to him though their gaze.  The highly decorated initial letter adds another lay of authority to the document: it contains the crest of the arms of the House of Habsburg.

The recipient of the coat of arms was a conquistador who fought with Pizarro and established himself in Peru. The image of Pizarro is a true rarity: perhaps his only known life portrait.  The coat of arms is displayed in the text, and the whole is framed with images of conquest and the New World's bounty.

To see this remarkable document, ask for Lansburgh 15.

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