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The Florentine humanist and theorist Leon Battista Alberti recommends in his painting treatise ‘De Pictura’ the principles of imitatio and aemulatio as decisive constitutive elements for a renewal or further development of the visual arts. Not only Italian, but also Dutch and German artists were concerned with these art-theoretical premises. Only when imitatio is surpassed by aemulatio, as is argued in this study, are works of art created whose narrative, compositional and material quality was able to satisfy the particularly demanding expectations of princes and kings and the courtly elites.
In the cultural and political world of the early modern period, the concept of imitatio and aemulatio cannot ultimately be thought of without the court context, which is why particular attention should be paid to this constellation in this article using concise case studies, with a special view of the Montefeltro diptych Piero della Francesca’s and a side glance at Rubens and Velàzquez. Based on these case studies it can be shown that the art-theoretical principles of imitatio and aemulatio in the sphere of court art were ultimately only able to exist in connection with the principle of political and dynastic representation.