Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Outsider fashion in old Nuremberg

Well, 'sumer is Icumin in', as the old poem goes, and in the face of global warming people are divesting themselves of as many garments as decency allows. However, today I want to share with you some full-body suits so delighfully bizarre they beggar belief. In the 16th century, Nuremberg’s Schembart Carnival—like the April Feast of Fools in other parts of Europe—was a way for the common folk to bust loose, thumb their noses at the elite, and in general let their freak flag fly. In remarkably elaborate costumes (many reflecting their guilds or occupations) they paraded through the streets, brandishing lances and bunches of leaves that concealed fireworks.
This costume seems to be composed of doll-like figures.
With cargoes of subversive and satiric effigies, large ships on runners known as “Hells” were drawn through the thoroughfares  (a preacher named Osiander was depicted on one such float, playing backgammon surrounded by fools and devils).
Richly illustrated manuscripts known as “Schembartb├╝cher” preserved examples of this fantastical, whimsical attire, and it is from one of these (housed in UCLA library's digital collections) that these images come.

Which is your favorite? I kind of go for the peacock man. Do you think the person depicted at left has a womanly mein? Women (and children) were involved, as attested by the somewhat perplexing images below.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief glimpse of a late Medieval "Project Runway"!


  1. Sort of a cross between the Rose Parade and the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village!
    I saw this on Public Domain Review (they were puzzled by the "flaming artichokes") That backgammon-playing minister got the parade cancelled. But I read it was reinstated in 1974(?). I hope so, cause it sounds like fun.
    My favorite? I guess the guy covered in Post-It Notes.

  2. I'd love to be part of a parade like this! We could all dress up like the 1%!!

  3. A few years ago my son did two student exchanges with a high school in Nuremberg, spending part of 10th and 11th grade over there studying in German. I'll have to ask him if any homage to this still goes on in the streets.

    I'm partial to the green-headed ram people wearing bells, at the end of the parade.

    p.s. Hard to believe there hasn't been a rock group called The Flaming Artichokes.

    1. You could always start one, I'm sure!
      The traditional date for the parade was Shrove Tuesday.
      Let us know if these festivities are still going on...and if they still tie small people to tree trunks and carry them over their shoulders.

    2. The flaming artichokes gets my vote as well! Eminently suitable for a band.

  4. Whoa I had no idea that people in the 16th century were such risk taking fashionista's!!! Cool!!!

  5. my favorite is the night-and-day costumer at the very top. and it doesn't hurt that he, too, is carrying a flaming artichoke!! :-D

  6. I love that you referred to this as Medieval Project Runway, because most of them look similar to the result of the "unusual materials" challenge Project Runway has every season.

    Also, most of them are..... Arti-smokin' :)

  7. Hi All,

    There appears to be a number of things that have gotten conflagrated about the Schembartlauefin Festivaal (Nuremberg;s version of Carnavale, mardi Gras) but non the less the images are great.

    This festival was restored to prominence in Nuremberg in the 20th century so whomever want so to go arty around that time them, have a greeat time.

    This festival does not have a happy background. Basically the butchers of Nuremberg got so ticked off at the City Coucil (govt) that they threatened to nutiny-oh, did i forget to mention they were the ones with the knives and the meat.? Policticaly the City Couhcil DID decided it woud be in everyone's best intestests to hav ethis huge blow of off steam among everyone in town. It became a very big deal and quite an honor to be the Chair of the Schembartlaufein.

    By the way there were no guilds in Nuremberg and thse people are NOT wearing examples of their occupations. EVERYONE, including the President (the Losunger) dressed up, but unfortunately the majority of thiese images are of the top elite and upper class, not the masses.

    The guy in the Dice suit sports the coat of arms of Tucher and Haller (bascially President and Vice President. almost all of the costumes are indicating a wealthy coat of arms in the images

    And THEN YOU GET to the Wildmen and Wilodmeomen in Green-NOW THERE'S WERE YOU'VE GOT THE poorer people involved . The Germancs LOVED these folkloric creatures they made up who lived in the forsest and they are known to have voracious sexual appetittes. Everyone wanted a wildman or woman supporter in their coat of arms to boast of their sexual prowess.

    Peacock man is a man and has a Patrician coat of arms. Thor origin of the artichoke I don;t know but having been to Amerstdam on New Years, I bet they can make some mean bottle rockets.

    The first guy is the Birkamer (Pirkheimer-as in Willibald Pirkheimer of Duerer) and most of the Patricians once again held their own fashions shows when the Schemarbart laufin came along. I'd got for a Wildman costume, they can get away with everything :)

    But they are great images! Thax for the treat.


    1. and sorry for my bad spelling, had an arm injury today