History of Nuremberg: Commemorative manuscript recording images of parades and jousts.

Commemorative Illustrations Showing Off the Gorgeous Parades of Late-Medieval Germany

Commemorative Illustrations Showing Off the Gorgeous Parades of Late-Medieval Germany

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Oct. 31 2014 8:12 AM

Commemorative Illustrations Showing Off the Gorgeous Parades of Late-Medieval Germany

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

These images of late-medieval and early-modern parade entrants come from the city of Nuremberg, in Bavaria (present-day Germany). The manuscript, created in the late 16th or early 17th century and available online through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital collections, contains illustrations of parade participants, jousting contestants, and pageant sleighs. It’s a historical work, recording memories of events held in Nuremberg from the 15th through the 17th centuries.

During this period, Nuremberg, now probably best remembered in the United States as the site of the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals, had a rich public life. One of the region’s most populous and well-fortified cities, it was dominated by a wealthy merchant class, and its prosperity supported artisans, musicians, and people of learning.

Advertisement

In these images, the richness of the city and its cosmopolitan nature emerge. The anonymous artist of the manuscript records parade entrants based on Greek myths (Poseidon, Apollo, Io and Argus); satirical approaches, such as the wife riding a husband or two men in a bath playing cards; and a memento mori–themed entry, complete with a withered, suffering old horse. The sumptuousness of the dress, of both horses and people, adds to the spectacle. One horse even wears a leopard skin—further evidence of the city’s far-reaching trade networks.

“Nothing is known about the manuscript’s early history: exactly when, for what purpose, and by whom it was commissioned,” the Metropolitan’s curators write. By this time, historian Stephen Brockman records, Nurembergers had a great deal of civic pride, and wealthy boosters commissioned literary works about the city in hopes of spreading its fame. It may be that a well-to-do Nuremberger asked an artist to create the album in order to glorify the city’s public culture, or to cement his family’s own place in its history. 

I first saw this album via historian Alexi Baker's Twitter.

Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

4NurembergParade
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

5NurembergParade
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

6NurembergParade
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

7NurembergParade
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

8NurembergParade
Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th-€“mid-17th century German, Nuremberg, Pen and ink, watercolor, gold and silver washes; paper bound in gold-tooled leather; cover: 14 x 10 3/8 in. (35.56 x 26.35 cm); page: 13 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (34.61 x 25.08 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.229).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.