The Mythology of the Habsburgs, Part II: The Flags

In the largest of the paintings, figured below, heraldic flags and banners are dispersed throughout the central scene:

A group of allegorical paintings representing the history of the Hadsburg Dynasty. Early 18th century, probably Austria.

Carlton Hobbs LLC. A set of paintings representing the history of the Hadsburg dynasty.


Heading the painting, the flag of the Holy Roman Empire is flown from the middle mast of the ship; the distinctive black double-headed eagle against a gold ground holds the sword, scepter, and globus cruciger; and bears a shield depicting both the charges of Austria (red field with a white fess) and Bohemia (red field with a white rampant lion). To the left of this flies the flag of Hungary, represented by a white double-cross on red ground. To the right and below, the flag of Bohemia is again represented by a white double-tailed rampant lion on red ground. Two additional coats of arms are depicted at the bow of the ship: a red flag presents the coat of arms of Lorraine (a shield with gold field, red bend, and three white allerions), and the coat of arms of Moravia, which was joined to Bohemia in the 11th century, is presented on the sail and comprises a shield of a blue field with red and white checkered eagle.

The cherub  at the top is holding Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, the cherub lower down holds Crown of Kingdom of Bohemia and the cherub on the right is holding the coronet of the Archduchy of Austria.

The Austrian flag is given a prominent place, beside the figure in green regalia seated on the ship, and is inscribed with the latin “Ite Triumphales Circa Sua Tempora Laurus,” meaning “The laurels of victory rest upon your temples.” Furthering the Austrian propaganda, the sail below the Holy Roman Empire’s flag is inscribed with the acronym “ A E I O U,” which stands for “Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo” (“Austria is to rule the world”). It is not yet clear which Habsburg is depicted seated on the ship and we would love to hear any theories you might have!

Check our our Flickr page to see an image of the painting with the flags labeled.

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One Comment

  1. Kris wrote:

    Dear Sir or reader,

    You write “It is not yet clear which Habsburg is depicted seated on the ship and we would love to hear any theories you might have!”

    Maybe it is very simplistic to combine “victory” depiction of the ship, and Habsburg, and theorise that the person on the ship may be Don Juan de Austria.

    Of course the boat type is not accurate for this, and seen the different flags and coat of arms represented this painting must be dated much later. However, as we know a lot of painters did not follow historical accuracy when depicting a historical scene. They often did not have accurate depictions for subject research and were following written testament. Or the painter related the story visually to their own time and fashion.

    I would be curious to learn more about a possible artist and dating of the painting.



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  1. […] You may remember the posts from back in 2009, where we explored the lore of the Habsburg dynasty,  symbolism of the flags, and the allusions to Greek and Roman […]

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