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The Kerry Stokes Schembart Book: Festivity, Fashion and Family in the Late Medieval Nuremberg Carnival


 10 November 2015
Time: 6:15pm
Venue: Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Parkville, The University of Melbourne

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Schembart was the name given to the carnival parade held in the city of Nuremberg on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church season of Lent. In the late middle ages Nuremberg was a wealthy economic and cultural centre in the German-speaking Holy Roman Empire, and its carnival was one of the most extravagant. It is also the best known, because of the Schembart books created by its leading families between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

This lecture will focus on the richly illustrated Schembart book in the Kerry Stokes collection, with reference to some of the other eighty manuscripts that survive. These record the sixty-five carnival parades held between 1449 and 1539, the year when they were permanently banned. They depict the different costumes of the so-called Runners who danced their way through the city, the floats that were pulled to the town square and ritually destroyed, and other pranksters and revelers dressed in exotic costumes. These manuscripts testify to the central role of carnival in the city’s festive life, the use of fashion and display in supporting the status of its leading families, and their emotional investment in ensuring that memories of carnival survived.

Charles Zika is Professorial Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne, and Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

This lecture series is kindly supported by Mr Kerry Stokes AC and Mrs Christine Simpson-Stokes, Mr Norman and Mrs Meryll Wodetzki and Australians Studying Abroad in partnership with The University of Melbourne Library.

An Illumination: the Rothschild Prayer Book and other works from the Kerry Stokes Collection c.1280-1685 will be exhibited at the Ian Potter Museum of Art from 28 August to 15 November 2015.

Image: St Helena. Suffrage, The Rothschild Prayer Book, fols 233v–234r. Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth