THE SEX SLUT OF NUREMBERG-for Mother’s Day

 

The 1498 Promenade
The 1498 Promenade also known as The Young Couple Threatened by Death

Copyright © May, 2015 Dr. Elizabeth A. Garner, All Rights Reserved

The first hint that I had that there were sexual stories in Albrecht Dürer’s prints came from the discovery of the embedded code that I found in the print known called by other art historians The Promenade or the Young Couple Threatened by Death, although we have no actual idea what Dürer called this print.

THE FIRST HIDDEN CODED MESSAGE FOUND

The Promenade neckline code in Durer's art
The hidden neckline code. What you see on the left of the diadem (brooch) is O N then a heraldic “rosette,” then on the right of the diadem “O R I C A 9”

This motif about illicit love was one of the most popular in the Renaissance and often depicted by artists. A bachelor is secretly trysting with a married woman far away from peering eyes. Here’s what one of the German museums, the Staatliche Kunsthalle, in Karlsruhe, Germany says about this type of composition: (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/d/Dürer/2/13/1/020.html)

“As the gallant gazes at his companion adoringly, he points ahead to the path. The ostrich feather he is wearing in his hat is a sign of his bachelor status. Behind the tree, unnoticed by the lovers, Death is holding up an hourglass. The picture can be interpreted as a moralizing metaphor for the transitoriness of love and sensuality.

[But] The figure of death does not necessarily indicate a warning to lovers, as this was not customary in the fifteenth century..”

DOES DEATH TRIUMPH?

This was a great guess by previous art historians at what this composition meant for 500+ years, not knowing that a coded message was embedded in the neckline.  But when I found the coded message, I knew everyone was wrong about the real meaning of this print.  It wasn’t customary at the time to have a motif of Death warning the “bad” lovers.  People wouldn’t buy this print if they were constantly reminded that their bad behavior would end in death.  Why would anyone spend good money for that?  No, there was a much better message in this print. One that would make everyone want to buy this print.

Let’s take a close look.

Nuremberg headdress in Albrecht Durer painting
The bachelor cap with ostrich plume and the married woman’s Nuremberg headdress, indicating by one glance this is a married woman of Nuremberg

The headdress worn by the woman does signify that she is married, and the man’s clothing,

(the cap with ostrich plume, the tights, the cape, and the man’s shoes) was typical of unmarried men.  Thus we definitely have a depiction of a married woman trysting with a bachelor.

This headdress has been clearly identified as a Nuremberg headdress, indicating the woman is from Nuremberg. Everyone who looked at this print would know that.

SCANDAL IN FASHION

Durer's painting comparing Nuremberg Woman's dress and woman's venetian dress
Durer’s drawings of a typical Nuremberg woman’s dress vs. a typical woman’s Venetian dress (commonly thought to be a drawing of a prostitute)

The top part of the woman’s dress is Italian in fashion, while the bottom is from Nuremberg.  The City of Nuremberg regulated clothing in every social class and according to Nuremberg law, this dress would have been understood as illegal and scandalous by customers. How did Dürer get away with selling a print of a totally scandalous dress without getting arrested by the government?

It appears that Dürer depicted a clearly illegal dress to draw attention to his embedded message.

The neckline code
“N rosette O R I C A S”

 

What you see is the following letters smaller than the neckline as such:  “ O N,  then a heraldic “rosette”on the left of the diadem (brooch) on the neckline, then on the right of the diadem “O R I C A 9,” spelling the words “o! Norica 9”

NORICA, which is the Latin feminine form of Noricum, means “from Hungary,”  not “from Nuremberg” as previous art historians claimed. Noricum was the ancient Roman name given to the area from which Dürer’s father emigrated.  It thus appears that Dürer was indicating a Hungarian woman caught in illicit love.

The key to the code is the rosette on the left of the diadem, which emblematically indicates Sigismund Stromeyer “zur goldenen Rose (Golden Rose),” a designation of unknown origin attached to one “line” of the Stromeyer families (of which there were three). The Stromeyer family was one of the richest, oldest, and most politically powerful families of the Nuremberg.

THE MEDIEVAL “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”

What “if” Albrecht Dürer was selling scandal sheets about the rich and famous?  What if Albrecht Dürer was the forerunner of “People” magazine and “Entertainment Tonight”?

Let’s take a look.

One of the most famous scandals of Nuremberg in this time was the cuckolding of the Patrician Johannes Pirkheimer by Sigismund Stromeyer zur goldenen Rose, with Barbara Löffelholz, of Hungarian descent, Pirkheimer’s betrothed.

FORCED MARRIAGE

While Johannes was out of the country, studying law in Italy, Barbara broke her betrothal to him, and married Sigismund Stromeyer zur goldenen Rose, because Sigismund was a better catch.  Johannes, hearing of this disgrace, hurried back to Nuremberg, sued in the diocesan court presided over by the Bishop of Bamberg for custody of Barbara Löffelholz, and won his case.

He married Barbara on April 19, 1466, where he immediately bore her away to Eichstatt, sixty miles away from Nuremberg. Johannes never allowed her to return to Nuremberg because of the scandal.

MOMMY DEAREST

The Pirkheimer family remained in  Eichstatt, where Barbara bore 6 daughters, dying in childbirth with the seventh child, the only son,Willibald Pirkheimer, whom legend claims to have been Dürer’s best friend as well as an important patron. After his wife’s death, Johannes returned to Nuremberg and joined a monastery. The six daughters all became nuns in Nuremberg.

WHAT A DEAL!

Since the vacant Pirkheimer house, prime real estate near the City Marketplace was a good place for a goldsmith to operate, it was rented by Dürer’s father in 1466-1467. Dürer was, in fact, born in the Pirkheimer House and lived there until age six, when his father was finally able to purchase a homestead for the family.  Thus, Dürer was intimately aware of this scandal and appears to have capitalized on it.

 

Willibald Pirkheimer
Willibald Pirkheimer when he was still sexually attractive

For some reason Albrecht Dürer was really angry at Willibald Pirkheimer to have enshrined his mother as the sex slut of Nuremberg and to take such a risk in doing this!

We will investigate why in future articles

 

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