Online Lecture: Zero Hour for Illuminated Manuscripts? The Acquisition and Alienation of Medieval Art in Post-World-War II Nuremberg

  • Region: All Regions
  • Type: Talk
  • Cost: Free

14 Nov 2023  17.30 – 19 (GMT)

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This is part of the ongoing IHR London Society for Medieval Studies seminar series. All welcome – this event is free, but booking is required.

Prof William Diebold will discuss two decisions regarding medieval illuminated manuscripts made during the 1950s by the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg. The first was to acquire a spectacular Ottonian-era gospel manuscript, a book used in the Christian liturgy.  The other was to sell two late medieval haggadahs (the book used by Jews to celebrate Passover) that had been in the collection of the Nuremberg museum for a century.

This paper documents these stories, one of acquisition and the other of alienation, and locates them in their post-World-War-II German historical context.  Because the Nazis had so heavily capitalized on the Middle Ages, which they saw as the “First Empire” that was reincarnated in their Third Reich, the status of medieval art was fraught in Germany after 1945.  And nowhere was this more true than in Nuremberg, the city that had been the site both of the Nazi Party’s annual rallies and of the postwar trials of the leading Nazis. To try to deal with this impossibly difficult legacy, many Germans viewed the end of the Second World War as the “Zero Hour,” a moment when their country began entirely anew.  This paper argues, however, that the acquisition of the early medieval gospel book and the alienation of the two haggadah manuscripts show that, assertions of a Zero Hour to the contrary, the legacy of the Nazi era was not an easy one to leave behind. Instead, the acquisition and deaccession policy of the Nuremberg museum instead shows more continuities with Nazi practices than breaks from it.

14 Nov 2023  17.30 – 19 (GMT)

Register here:

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