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Art and society in Ulm 1377-1530

Armfield, Maris Margaret Doris (2012) Art and society in Ulm 1377-1530. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The imperial city of Ulm in southwest Germany was one of the largest in the country during the Middle Ages, and one of four important centres in the Swabian region. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the region was characterised by a large number of towns and cities, especially imperial cities, most of which lay south of the Swabian Alps, in Upper Swabia. For their protection the towns formed into the Swabian League of which Ulm had leadership until the latter part of the fifteenth century. The League restrained the ambitions of emperor and the princes, and effectively maintained relatively peaceful conditions in the region for most of the fifteenth century. The cities relied largely on trade, shipping iron, salt, meat and grain from eastern areas into the southwest for distribution. There was also a vast textile industry, producing woollen cloths and fustian, or barchent, with a mixture of cotton and linen. Wool and flax were produced locally, while cotton was brought from Venice, and finished cloth distributed throughout Europe. This led to the rise of family merchant companies that handled import, export, distribution, and in some cases production. Familial networks were key. Such networks were also fundamental for craft communities throughout the region and artisans frequently moved to train or work. As a large centre, Ulm produced much sculpture and painting with production peaking during the second half of the fifteenth century, resulting in an extensive export market. As with all imperial cities, Ulm relied on its relationship with the empire for its ability to function, politically and economically. Largely because of its wealth, it gained a high level of autonomy, which it used to acquire an extensive territorial area, and to secure authority over the parish, its church, and local foundations. Of fundamental importance was the parish church of Our Lady, which was relocated into the heart of the commercial area of the city and rebuilt on a massive scale signalling the might of the town. The renewed importance of Our Lady encouraged endowments and gifts, and helped secure the authority of the patriciate, especially the Krafft family. In the face of guild uprisings during the fourteenth century, the patriciate of Ulm was a particularly closed type and social demarcation was rigorously practised. Inter-marriage with a select group of traders, however, resulted in a ruling body that effectively developed into an oligarchy, despite substantial guild representation on the civic council. A small group held power over many years and most aspects of everyday living were closely regulated and policed. Artistic styles and developments reflected this stable, yet rather restricted climate. Change was adopted with caution. But, arguably, styles also reflected wider regional trends that, to an extent, might be classed as traditionally Swabian. The characteristic regional style might also have been linked to mysticism and pious practices amongst female religious that had filtered into civic life. As vibrant commercial centres, the cities were conscious of a communal responsibility. Ultimately, this somewhat conservative attitude led to a shift in artistic production during the last decade of the fifteenth and into the sixteenth century. Ulm was unable to keep pace with wider political and commercial developments, and in certain ways Ulm did not provide artists with the conditions necessary to fully exploit their talents.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Richards, Dr. John C.
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Mrs Maris M. D. Armfield
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3669
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3669

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