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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.
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.