Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.


Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



The Thirty Years' War



see also collection:
Jacques Callot "Miseries of War"


In the Thirty Years' War, the growing tensions between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Catholic powers on the one hand, and the Protestant regions and estates on the other, erupted into violence. The conflict began in Bohemia but soon spread throughout the empire and drew in almost all the European powers. Spain supported its Catholic relations, Denmark and Sweden supported the Protestants, and France was mainly interested in weakening the Habsburgs. In the Holy Roman Empire, and especially in Bohemia, whole districts were devastated by passing armies which would terrorize the local population and requisition their property.


The Palatine-Bohemian Phase


1618-21: Bohemian Revolt

19 Sep - 21 Nov 1618: Siege or Battle of Pilsen (Plzen)
20 Mar 1619: Ferdinand becomes King of Bohemia
10 Jun 1619: Battle of Sablat (Zablati)
5 Aug 1619: Battle of Wisternitz (Vestonice)
17 Aug 1619: Frederick V becomes King of Bohemia
8 Nov 1620: Battle of White Mountain

1621-24: Palatinate Phase

24 May 1621: Protestant Union dissolved
27 Apr 1622: Battle of Wiesloch / Mingolsheim
6 May 1622: Battle of Wimpfen
20 June 1622: Battle of Höchst
29 Aug 1622: Battle of Fleurus
6 Aug 1623: Battle of Stadtlohn

1624  In 1624 England, France, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Savoy, Venice, and Brandenburg formed an anti-Hapsburg alliance to fight against Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor.



In Bohemia the country princes disposed of the Habsburg Ferdinand II and chose Elector Count Palatine as king. However, he was soon expelled by the Catholic League.


During his lifetime, the childless Emperor Matthias, who succeeded his brother Rudolf in 1612, assigned the crown of Bohemia (1617) and Hungary (1618) to his cousin, 4 Ferdinand II.

The Bohemian country princes, who were mainly Protestant, feared that the Jesuit-educated Ferdinand would suspend the Letter of Majesty of 1609. This had stipulated that all subjects should enjoy freedom of conscience in religious matters.

Insisting on their right to freely elect their king, the princes deposed him and voted in the leader of the Protestant Union, 5 Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate, as his replacement in 1618.

Ferdinand II

5 Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate

The election caused bitter enmity between the religious parties of the Bohemian aristocracy.

On May 23, 1618, Protestants threw the Catholic imperial governors, Slawata and Martinez, and a secretary out the window of the 3 Prague Castle (the 2 "Prague defenestration") and thus threw down a challenge to the Habsburgs. The violent conflict had begun.

3 Prague Castle

2 The "Prague defenestration", 1618  

Defenestration of Prague,

(May 23, 1618), incident of Bohemian resistance to Habsburg authority that preceded the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War. In 1617 Roman Catholic officials in Bohemia closed Protestant chapels that were being constructed by citizens of the towns of Broumov and Hrob, thus violating the guarantees of religious liberty laid down in the Letter of Majesty (Majestätsbrief) of Emperor Rudolf II (1609).

In response, the defensors, appointed under the Letter of Majesty to safeguard Protestant rights, called an assembly of Protestants at Prague, where the imperial regents, William Slavata and Jaroslav Martinic, were tried and found guilty of violating the Letter of Majesty and, with their secretary, Fabricius, were thrown from the windows of the council room of Hradčany (Prague Castle) on May 23, 1618. Although inflicting no serious injury on the victims, that act, known as the Defenestration of Prague, was a signal for the beginning of a Bohemian revolt against the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand II, which marked one of the opening phases of the Thirty Years’ War.

Ferdinand sent his cousin,   Duke Maximilian of Bavaria and head of the Catholic League, to Bohemia with troops under the command of the Bavarian 6 General Tilly.

6 Bavarian General Tilly

On November 8,1620, the league's forces 1 defeated those of the Protestant princes at the Battle of White Mountain, near Prague.

Frederick V, mocked as the "winter king" for his short-lived reign, was forced to flee to Holland. A tribunal then convened in Bohemia, and 21 leaders of the rebellion were executed, while a large amount of Protestant property was confiscated. The crown of Bohemia became the property of the Habsburgs until 1918.
In 1622 troops of the Catholic League and of Spain occupied the Palatinate, and in 1623 they made Maximilian elector palatine, whereupon power relations in the Electoral College shifted significantly in favor of the Catholics. The Protestants in the empire felt challenged and threatened.

1 The Battle of White Mountain in Bohemia, painting by Pieter Snayers, 17th century


The Danish War


1625-29: Danish intervention

25 Apr 1626: Battle of the Dessau Bridge
27 Aug 1626: Battle of Lutter-am-Bamberg
5 Jul - Oct 1628: Siege of Stralsund
12 Aug 1628: Battle of Wolgast
1629: Treaty of Lubeck




Denmark allied itself with the Protestants of Lower Saxony and fought against a northward attack by the imperial troops under Wallenstein.


In his battle against Frederick V, Tilly advanced well into Westphalia.

The Protestants of northern Germany feared Catholic domination and prepared their 8, 10 troops under Ernst of Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel.

8 Band of soldiers attacking local peasants, wood engraving, 17th ñ
10 Band of soldiers robbing and killing their victims, wood engraving, 17th ñ

 The war thus began to spread beyond Bohemia. Christian IV of Denmark led the Protestant forces, together with Duke von Holstein, the most senior Protestant prince in the region of Lower Saxony.

On the Catholic side, the rise of 7, 12 Albrecht von Wallenstein commenced.

7 Albrecht von Wallenstein, 17th century

12 Wallenstein's palace in Prague, built in 1621

The Bohemian aristocrat had converted to Catholicism, acquired an immense fortune through the purchase of confiscated Protestant goods, and offered his services to the emperor. An excellent strategist, he quickly made a name for himself as a military commander.

Wallenstein marched his army to northern Germany and there defeated Ernst of Mansfeld at 13 Dessauer Bridge on April 25,1626.

13 Wallenstein's victory in the Battle at the Dessauer Bridge, 1626

Shortly afterwards, Tilly also defeated Christian IV at the Battle of Lutter am Barenbcrg on August 27,1626. In 1626 Wallenstein, now commander in chief of the imperial army and duke of Fricdland, and Tilly went on to conquer Holstein, Schleswig, and Jutland, expelling the dukes of Mecklenburg and appropriating their lands. The Danish king was forced to agree to the Peace of Lubeck in 1629.

Ferdinand II now stood at the height of his powers, and on March 6,1629, he decreed his Edict of Restitution, which demanded that the Protestants 11 return all the secularized Church lands and called on the Catholic imperial estates to actively re-Catholicize.

However, Wallenstein's draconian demands alarmed many; at the Diet of Regensburg in 1630, his enemies and rivals, notably 9 Maximilian of Bavaria, conspired to secure his dismissal from the post of commander in chief of the imperial armies.

11 Castle Gustrow, Wallenstein's residence in Mecklenburg, north Germany

9 Maximilian I of Bavaria, painting, 17th century



Albrecht Eusebius von Wallenstein

Wallenstein was convinced of the power of the stars over his fate. He had the famous astronomer John Kepler draw up his horoscope.

Horoscope made for Wallenstein by the astrologer John Kepler, showing the position of the planets on the day of his birth



The Swedish War

The Battle of Wittstock, 1636


1630-35: Swedish intervention

Nov 1630 - 20 May 1631: Siege and Sack of Magdeburg
22 Jul 1631: Battle of Werben
17 Sep 1631: First Battle of Breitenfeld
15 Apr 1632 Battle of Rain / Battle of the River Lech
Late Summer 1632 Battle of the Alte Veste
3-4 Sep 1632 Battle of Furth
16 Nov 1632 Battle of Lutzen
6 Sep 1634 Battle of Nordlingen
4 Oct 1636 Battle of Wittstock



The plight of the German Protestants caused the Swedish king to act. After a triumphant march through Germany, King Gustav fell in battle against Wallenstein.


Sweden was alarmed by the advance of imperial power in northern Germany and the Baltic region where, by the Peace of Lubeck of 1629. Christian IV of Denmark had agreed not to intervene in German affairs.

Fearing for his hegemony in the North, the Swedish Lutheran 1 King Gustav II Adolph championed the cause of the German Protestants.

1 King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden

In 1650, encouraged and financially supported by Cardinal Richelieu of France who also wished to reduce imperial influence, Gustav moved south and began his march through Germany. The Swedish army was a formidable and well-disciplined fighting unit.

The imperial forces under Tilly were not strong enough and suffered a defeat against the 3 allied Swedish and Saxon forces at 2 Breitenfeld on September 17,1631.

3 Commemoration of the Protestant alliance between
Gustav II Adolph of Sweden, the Elector John George I of Saxony,
and George William of Brandenburg, 1631

2 Battle of Breitenfeld, 1631

From Mainz, Gustav pushed southward in spring 1632 to occupy Augsburg, and in May of 1632 moved into the Munich residence of the Elector Maximilian, who had fled to Nuremberg. The city of Munich offered heavy bribes to prevent the Swedish and Saxon armies from looting, but many churches and monasteries in southern Germany were devastated by Swedish soldiers.

At this point the emperor had no choice but to reappoint Wallenstein as commander of the troops. Wallenstein cut off Swedish support in southern Germany and forced Gustav to confront him in Saxony.

At the 5 Battle of Lutzen on November 16,1632, Gustav was killed, but the Protestants still triumphed.

5 The Battle of Lutzen by Carl Wahlbom shows the death of King Gustavus Adolphus on November 16, 1632.

However, the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxensticrna, could not keep the Protestant alliance together, particularly as Wallenstein and the Saxon commander, Hans Georg von Arnim, were secretly negotiating peace.

The strange behavior of Wallenstein, who probably wanted to join the Protestant troops under 6 Bernhard von Weimar at this stage, convinced Emperor Ferdinand of his commander's betrayal, and he gave his consent for 4 Wallenstein's murder in Eger by a group of his officers.

6 Duke Bernhard von Weimar

4 Murder of Wallenstein by his officers in Eger, February 25, 1634

The subsequent defeat of Weimar and the Swedes at 7 Nordlingen led to the Peace of Prague between the emperor and most of the Protestant princes of the empire on May 30,1635.

 Ferdinand abandoned the implementation of his Restitution Edict, and all sides agreed to expel foreign powers and mercenaries from the empire. A general war weariness saw all sides embrace the peace.

The Battle of Nördlingen,1634, by Jacques Courtois


Peter Paul Rubens
The Habsburg Meeting at Nordlingen on 2 September 1634 between
King Ferdinand of Hungary and Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain


From the Franco-Swedish Phase to the Peace of Westphalia

Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648



1636-48: French intervention

10 Oct 1637: Fall of Breda
Feb 1638: Battle of Rheinfelden
26 May 1642: Battle of Honnecourt
23 Oct 1642: 2nd Battle of Breitenfeld
19 May 1643: Battle of Rocroi
24 Nov 1643: Battle of Tuttlingen
3, 5, and 9 Aug 1644: Battle of Freiburg
Nov 1644: Battle of Juterbog
24 Feb 1645: Battle of Jankov
2 May 1645: Battle of Mergentheim
3 Aug 1645: Battle of 2nd Nordlingen
20 Aug 1648: Battle of Lens
7 May 1648: Battle of Zusmarshausen
1648: Siege and Battle of Prague, and Battle of the Charles Bridge



France engineered the continuation of the war. The last phase was particularly devastating for the civilian population until the Peace of Westphalia ended the conflict in 1648.


The end of war in Germany was not in the interests of France, since it was clearly placing a major strain on the rival Habsburgs. Cardinal Richelieu of France continued to support the Protestant commanders with large sums of money and urged them to pursue the war.

With this assistance, Swedish general Johan Baner defeated the imperial forces at 8 Wittstock in 1636, and again at Chemnitz in 1639.

8 General Baner in the Battle of Wittstock, 1636

Battle of Lens

Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar also triumphed over imperial troops at Rheinfelden in 1638. In 1645, the Swedes marched as far as Vienna, while French troops were forced back in Bavaria.

After three decades of war the empire was devastated.

Whole regions in northern Germany, the Palatinate, and Brandenburg were depopulated and desolate and would remain so for deeades: in some parts of the empire, as much as half of the population had 10 died.

10 Mass public hanging, etching, 1632, Jacques Callot "Miseries of War"

see also collection:

Jacques Callot

"Miseries of War"

Prosperous cities had been reduced to small towns or even large villages.

The people, particularly the 11 peasants, had suffered appalling hardships: torture, famine, and disease. Bands of desperate people wandered through Germany begging and stealing whatever they could.

11 Peasants flee from the advancing armies, ca. 1645

9 Documents marked with the seals of
the combatants establishing the
Peace of Westphalia in 1648

From 1644 to 1648, representatives of all powers took part in peace negotiations at 12 Munster and Osnabruck, which after long and hard bargaining led to the 9 Peace of Westphalia.

Bavaria retained the title of elector palatine, and an eighth electorate was created for the reinstated son of the "winter king." Switzerland and the Netherlands officially resigned from the Imperial Alliance, and the power of the emperor was restricted to Hungary and Bohemia, his hereditary lands. The princes of the empire gained significantly in power and created their own alliance of sovereign states, of which the emperor was only the nominal head. The actual victors were France and Sweden, who gained territory and underlined their status as great European powers. The Netherlands, too, profited from the weakening of the empire. The Peace of Westphalia established the principle that states could not interfere in each others affairs on grounds of religious differences.

12 Peace negotiations in Munster, 1648



Song of Praise for the Peace

by Paul Gerhard

Praise God! A noble word of
Peace and joy rings out,
Which will from now on still
The spears and swords and their
Take courage and take once
more to your string,
Playing Î Germany and sing
In a high full choir,
Lift your spirits toyour God and
Lord, Your mercy andgoodness
Still remains eternal.

The swearing of the oath of ratification of the treaty of Munster in 1648 by Gerard ter Borch




Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy