The special exhibition „Maximilian1 – Glanzstücke der Innsbrucker Hofplattnerei“ was held at the end of May 2023 in the Imperial Hofburg opened. Among the highlights is the extraordinary horned helmet made by Konrad Seusenhofer in Innsbruck. This was probably a gift from Emperor Maximilian I to Henry VIII of England. This helmet alone is worth seeing, but other valuable loans, impressive digital copies, animations and films make the exhibition an experience.
Behind the scenes - shortly before the opening
As a city guide and member of Per Pedes city tours i am occasionally assigned to unusual "appearances" in historical costumes - most recently together with some colleagues for the exhibition opening mentioned above. I have known the curator Monika Frenzel for many years now, and guided tours in costume are one of her great passions. For her current exhibition "Maximilian1 - Highlights of the Innsbruck Hofplattnerei", she put us in costume and assigned us to act as dapper information posts throughout the show. In preparation for this, we were allowed an exclusive sneak peek at the exhibition two evenings before the opening.
The Maximilian1 special exhibition opened on the second floor of the Innsbruck Hofburg in the anniversary year 2019. Subsequently, the show was transformed into a permanent exhibition. Regularly there is a new focus, after the Mummereien and the Tournaments are now followed by the highlights of the Hofplattnerei.
Hammering, painting and labeling until the last second
We didn't get into the exhibition rooms with the curator until after 5 p.m., but work was still going on and probably well into the night. There was a lot to do so close to the opening! There was a smell of fresh paint, there was foil on the floor, you could hear hammering, and the staff were standing on ladders to fix something there or to set up the lighting there. For the first time, I became aware that the design of exhibitions is also extremely exciting in terms of craftsmanship (and obviously associated with great time pressure).
Rousing curator tour
Monika Frenzel was immediately in her element and I - once again - heavily impressed. During my training as an Austriaguide and in recent years, I have dealt quite a bit with Emperor Maximilian I. When I say with a wink that I know more about him than about some of my friends, there is quite a bit of truth in that. But Frenzel, an art historian, has already curated several Maximilian exhibitions, designed exhibition routes, organized the legendary Court Festival in Innsbruck and published several works on "the last knight" Maximilian - in short, she is a real Maximilian expert. Despite her accumulated knowledge, she is always researching further, so that in the current show she can present spectacular pieces and new findings on Maximilian's court platters.
When she showed us and explained the innovations and highlights of the exhibition, her enthusiasm immediately spilled over. The focus this year is on grotesque helmets and costume armor from the workshop of Konrad Seusenhofer, who was court plater under Emperor Maximilian I in Innsbruck.
The very precious loans, for example grotesque helmets from the Royal Armouries in Leedsthe Livrustkammeren in Stockholm or from the Historical Museum in Bambergwe were able to take a close look at them that evening in the exhibition, which was not quite finished yet. On the showcases were still missing the important labels, but - and this is already extraordinary - the room with the "highlights", the helmets, was and is constantly guarded.
Among the grotesque helmets, one must not be missing, of course: The helmet from the Museum Goldenes Dachlwhich the then mayor Hilde Zach bought at Sothebyʼs auction and brought to Innsbruck, is on loan to the Hofburg. Its exciting story can be read in this Blog article to read about it.(Innsbruck grotesque helmet: presumably by Konrad's brother Hans Seusenhofer, Innsbruck Hofplattnerei around 1530, in the Museum Goldenes Dachl since 1995; grotesque helmet from Bamberg: Historisches Museum Bamberg, 1st half of the 16th century, presumably South German)
Two days later, by the way, at the opening, everything - from pictures to screens to the lettering - was in the right place. The night shifts of the hard-working staff had definitely paid off! For me, it was an impressive thing to see the finished exhibition.
The Haute Couture of Armor from Innsbruck
From 1504, Konrad Seusenhofer's Hofplattnerei produced breastplates and backplates for the emperor's numerous military campaigns, the so-called "Krebse". In addition, ornate ceremonial armor with matching helmets was also produced there. Maximilian Plattner developed these armor and grotesque helmets primarily for court festivities, parades, and show or joke tournaments. The helmets often looked fearsome to frighten onlookers, but they had an impressive richness of detail.
Konrad Seusenhofer also produced elaborate harnesses, or complete suits of armor, with a high degree of skill, based on the fashions of the time. He probably showed the highest level of his skill in the pleated skirt armor. These were often decorated with elaborate engravings, etchings or gilding.
Emperor Maximilian I commissioned several of these precious armor pieces, including helmets, from Seusenhofer to give as gifts. Among those who received them was Henry VIII of England; his horned helmet is the highlight of the exhibition.
Seusenhofer's creative period was short, we are talking about only about ten years, and unfortunately hardly any of his magnificent armor has survived. Because of the precious materials, such works were often melted down.
New media enable new experiences
Originals such as the horned helmet from Leeds naturally have their own special appeal. But novel presentations also have their place in the exhibition and take visitors on extraordinary journeys of discovery. One highlight is a digital replica of the "Silver and Engraved Harness" from the White Tower in London. In a remarkable animation by the Artfabrik and the Art director Manfred Corrine this unique armor can be seen from all sides. Not only that, but the numerous decorations are clearly highlighted, allowing details to be discovered that might otherwise have been lost. This "Silver and Engraved Armor" is attributed to an Italian plater from Greenwich, but Monika Frenzel and some other historians are convinced that actually Seusenhofer is to be considered its creator. The curator explained to us all the circumstantial evidence pointing to this. Attributions of historical works of art can thus certainly become exciting whodunits.
Well thought out and successful
The entire exhibition is set up with a wide variety of media and as an experience for all the senses. Films, animations, but also background music are part of it. Mining from ore to slab is explained in detail, and visitors large and small can crawl into a pit and feel firsthand how the miners felt back then. A replica of Seusenhofer's workshop can be seen in the exhibition (500-year-old forge from Molln), and a film in this setting clearly shows the physically difficult craft of the platers.
At the exhibition opening, art director Manfred Corrine said of these concepts that he remembered well his own youth and the conservative teaching of history - and that quite little of it stuck. But history can also be presented in an exciting way, and that is exactly what they are trying to do here in the exhibition at the Hofburg. I think you can see that. It has really succeeded well!
Exhibition organization, books and much more
Curator Monika Frenzel tells me how much commitment, work and dedication the entire project team has put into this exhibition. The art historian is responsible for the content concept as well as for the organization of the loans. With the armor and helmets of the Hofplattnerei, she ties in with the tournament theme of the last exhibition because she thinks it is a pity that the extraordinary Innsbruck workshop (so far) has never received the attention it deserves.
To get the unique horned helmet on loan to Innsbruck, she took on the Royal Armouries, which are considered difficult. And it succeeded! After all, the helmet comes from Innsbruck, and it was even exhibited here in 1954. For her research, Monika Frenzel thus gained insight into English literature and archival records, which she found particularly exciting.
In the end, the exhibition was put together by a well-coordinated team with exhibition architect Gerhard Veigel and art director Manfred Corrine. The curator praises the teamwork in the highest terms. A lot has happened since she first worked on an exhibition in the 1980s, when people still worked with index cards. She herself is constantly amazed at what is technically possible today. She is open to and enthusiastic about films, animations, 3D prints, and so on. The exhibition should be an experience for visitors, but the team also focuses on didactically good processing, and you can feel that.
Cast in book form
A book with 160 pages will also be published to accompany the exhibition. The title is „Maximilian1 – Festkultur am Innsbrucker Hof – Jagd, Turniere und Mummereien als gar ‚lustig Kurzweil‘“and numerous experts provided their contributions for it. Monika Frenzel is particularly pleased that many young authors also collaborated on this book project.
The exhibition „Maximilian1 – Glanzstücke der Innsbrucker Hofplattnerei“ is in any case worth seeing and (for me) an impressive experience. Monika Frenzel surprises me again and again with her unbelievably extensive knowledge, with her sparkling enthusiasm and the infectious ability to convey all this with exciting stories. There is a lot of fire and lifeblood in her exhibition at the Hofburg. I find that inspiring, and I congratulate her on that.
Postscript: to actually see the much-mentioned Horned Helmet, you have to come to the exhibition. The Royal Armouries are strict about image rights ...
Exhibition project team
- Curator: Dr. Monika Frenzel
- Assistance: Fabian Karner
- Project management: Hofrat Mag. Markus Wimmer
- Assistant to the project management: Christian Gepp, BA, MA
- Exhibition Architect: Gerhard Veigel
- Art Director: Manfred Corrine
Brief information and links
Special exhibition „Maximilian1 – Glanzstücke der Innsbrucker Hofplattnerei“ until October 31, 2023 at the Hofburg Innsbruck; opening hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Guided tours by curators: August 6, September 3, October 1, 2023, each at 2:30 p.m
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A Tyrolean girl, graphic designer, blogger and tour guide with a variety of interests and a weakness for nice people, culture, starry night skies, one more beer and the mountains.