A trip to southern Germany

The imaginary portrait of Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

The imaginary portrait of Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

Willem and I are on our travels again, this time to southern Germany. We spent yesterday (Thursday) in Nuremberg, notably at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. They have a wonderful collection of medieval and later sculptures and paintings. Among them is Albrecht Dürer's imaginary painting of Charlemagne, wearing the regalia of the Holy (German) Roman Emperor. He is thus seen wearing the famous mantle of Roger II of Sicily from the early twelfth century, together with the imperial gloves, the beautifully decorated stola and the red (?) tunic with the imperial eagles. All of these items are, so it would appear, now in the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer in Vienna, where we were so fortunate to see them two years ago. Seeing the painting by Dürer and realising that it most probably shows centuries-old imperial garments that are actually still extant and can still be admired, is a real confrontation with history. 

In addition, the museum has a special, very large gallery dedicated to German (and some Dutch) urban and regional dress, including male and female underwear. You don't see that very often in museums! Finally someone who has taken this part of dress seriously. Also lots of sports clothes, headgear and footwear. Well worth a visit to Nuremberg to see the gallery. In addition, according to the museum's website, they have an active team working on cataloguing and making available their extensive textile, clothing and jewellery collection. It is a site worth watching at regular intervals to see what is happening.

Today, Friday 9th June, is being spent in Regensburg, about one hour by (fast) train to the south of Nuremberg. The cathedral is a great, Gothic building with a small museum filled with liturgical garments dating from the eleventh century onwards, including many items of embroidery, notably a bishop's mitre and gloves, chasubles, dalmaticas as well as copes and cope hoods. There is a fifteenth century cope, for example, that has much earlier (tenth century) gold thread embroidery. There is alse a chasuble that has an early gold thread orphrey, whereby the background is worked in swirls of couched gold. It is said to come from Regensburg itself and is certainly very different in appearance and techniques from its northern counterparts.

This afternoon, while Willem has some University business to attend to, is being spent looking at a more modern tradition, namely Bavarian regional dress. There are at least three shops in walking distance of the cathedral that sell regional dress for men and women, and it remains a living tradition. This morning we saw a wedding party near the cathedral and several women were wearing the Dirndle outfit (blouse, waistcoat, skirt, apron) outfit, as well as men in embroidered lederhosen. There was also one shop that had a bridal version of the Dirndle outfit. I have never been that interested in German regional dress, but thanks to the TRC being given the Kircher Collection (with hundreds of items of German regional clothing) some months ago, it is something I am now looking at and becoming aware of what a diverse world it is.

This feeling intensified later in the afternoon when I went to the Historisches Museum Regensburg. Although I did not have an appointment I was able to talk with one of the staff about German regional dress and the TRC's problem of how to identify some of the unlabelled items from the Kircher Collection. Help was immediately offered! We are also going to talk about how the two institutes can work together with respect to exhibitions and research. By coincidence the museum also had on display an exhibition, called Heimat auf der Haut -Tracht in der Operpfalz, which is about nineteenth century regional dress from the Oberpflaz region of Germay. So we had an interesting time looking at the garments together and discussing their origins, uses, embroidery forms, etc. The exhibition runs until the beginning of July and is well worth seeing. There is also a catalogue to the exhibition, which will be discussed in the next, Books Showcased (June 2016) item of the TRC website. Tomorrow we are going to Bamburg to see some more medieval textiles and garments!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 June 2016

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