Albrecht Classen

title.none: Schupp, Ywain auf Schloss Rodenegg (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9801.003 98.01.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen,, University of Arizona, Tucson

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Schupp, Volker and Hans Szklenar. Ywain auf Schloss Rodenegg. Eine Bildergeschichte nach dem 'Iwein' Hartmanns von Aue. Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1996. Pp. 120. DM 29. ISBN: ISBN 3-799-54248-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.01.03

Schupp, Volker and Hans Szklenar. Ywain auf Schloss Rodenegg. Eine Bildergeschichte nach dem 'Iwein' Hartmanns von Aue. Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1996. Pp. 120. DM 29. ISBN: ISBN 3-799-54248-5.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona, Tucson

In recent years medievalists have increasingly paid attention to the significance of illustrations of literary texts in the form of wall paintings, tapestry, ivory carvings, etc. as they inform us in a unique way about the way how the medieval public interpreted individual romances and epics and to what extent literary texts were known among the public. One of the most exciting sites with medieval illustrations is Castle Rodenegg near Brixen in Southern Tyrol where a monumental illustration program of Hartmann von Aue's Iwein was uncovered in the early 1970s. In the present book, co-authored by Volker Schupp and Hans Szklenar, both the history of Castle Rodenegg and a critical examination of the illustrations are provided. Most important, though, prove to be the reproductions of the wall paintings in color photos which are of excellent quality.

The reader will be confused as to whether the wall illustrations were rediscovered in 1972, or whether they were only recovered and renovated at that time. In the foreword we read that the paintings were discovered about twenty years ago. The art historian Rasmo, however, mentioned in a publication from 1977/78 that the renovation work was begun in 1972 because the frescoes faced considerable damage. To clarify this problem, it needs to be pointed out that, until the early 1970s, these murals were almost completely obscured from view, and art historians simply assumed that they contained nothing but religious motifs. When the frescoes were finally revealed again, they quickly proved to be some of the most stunning secular art work of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the narrow sense of the word these are not frescoes because the paint was applied "al secco," that is, on a dry wall. Only the initial drawing was applied "al fresco."

In the first section of the book, composed by Szklenar, we learn in detail the history of the Lords of Rodanck who owned Castle Rodenegg from the end of the eleventh century until 1301 when Frederick IV of Rodanck passed away without leaving behind any children. His brother Arnold V of Schöneck was still able to maintain the family tradition, but in 1378, when his great grandson Johann von Schöneck died, this was the end of the house. During their long history the Lords of Rodanck had assumed a significant role in the administration of the imperial bishopric Brixen in their capacity as "ministeriales" and had thus been able to amass a considerable amount of wealth and property. Not surprisingly, the wall illustrations served as cultural representation of the political power of this house. We are also informed about the later history of Castle Rodenegg from the fourteenth century until the present, although this has no impact on the cycle of wall paintings. At the end Szklenar offers a meticulous description of the castle in architectural terms, and of the room with the illustrations.

Schupp begins his discussion with a retelling of Hartmann von Aue's Iwein and a brief outline of the poet's biography. Schupp's major contribution consists of a very commendable examination of the paintings and their relationship to the literary text. Obviously it is quite a different matter to write about chivalric adventures in comparison with creating a visual image of the same episode. The painter clearly made an attempt to capture the most significant scenes, the "fruchtbare Momente" (the fertile moments), as Schupp points out, but he also seems to have adapted the narrative account to the specific requirements of a painting. Occasionally Schupp compares the Rodenegg scenes with parallel illustrations of the Iwein at other locations, such as in Schmalkalden (Hessenhof) and Trient (Eagle Tower in Castello del Buonconsiglio), and thus gains an excellent understanding of how the painter must have thought and then realized his interpretation in color. This analysis leads Schupp at times to quite a different reading of the frescoes in contrast to James Rushing in his Princeton dissertation (1988; revised for publication as Images of Adventure; see my review in BMMR 96.11.18). He also establishes a new framework for dating the paintings, moving away from Rasmo's hypothesis that they were created around 1200. The problem with this date is that German medieval scholarship assumes with good reason that Hartmann did not complete his romance until around 1200, as Wolfram von Eschenbach refers to the Iwein in his Parzival as early as 1204. Rasmo believed that a "Hugo pictor" mentioned in the local sources can be identified as the artist responsible not only for the Rodenegg frescoes, but also for a number of other frescoes from the Brixen area, such as in the Johanneskapelle in Brixen (St. John's Chapel). In an earlier publication Schupp had demonstrated that this claim cannot be upheld without some important modifications. Although these details do not need to be discussed here, one can certainly agree with Schupp that most of the premises upon which the various datings were attempted stand on fairly shaky ground. It is highly unlikely that Hartmann's work became known in South Tyrol at such an early stage of its completion.

Achim Masser pointed out that the painter copied a specific type of helmet in use only between 1190 and 1212 in Bavaria and Tyrol, but Schupp correctly advises against taking this observation as solid evidence to determine the date of the frescoes. There is no way for us to claim that a painter always reflected only his or her reality. The appearance of such a helmet could be a historical relict, it could have been a nostalgic element, or simply an indication that the painter copied specific, but older models. In the end, almost any possibility for the dating remains open. Schupp simply suggests the first decades of the thirteenth century and points to the time of Arnold II (before 1220) or Arnold IV (before 1257) who both proved to be art lovers and patrons.

Overall, both authors have to be praised for their solid research, their meticulous investigation of the historical and art historical aspects, the close examination of the relationship between painting and literary text, and, above all, for the wonderful photographic material, i.e., the reproductions of the frescoes. These make this book a jewel to any bibliophile, almost an art object by itself.