[Paper:] Facebook avant la lettre: Real and Fictive Friends in Medieval Urban Houses (Sabine Sommerer)


From the 14th century onwards, the decoration of medieval halls culminated  in painted coats of arms commemorating the status of their owner. Interestingly, heraldic friezes also integrated imaginary arms. They were displayed side by side with real existing ones, as for example in the Haus zum Loch in Zurich. Similarly, at the Schönes Haus in Basel, the eyes of the distinguished guests were caught by playful variations of heraldic motifs in the different zones of the decoration system. Related manuscripts show that book and wall painting adopted similar strategies; a common pictorial language helped create moments of identification for the viewer that went hand in hand with an intellectual pleasure. I shall conclude with the coat of arms in the house Zum Brunnenhof, giving attention to the interaction of text and image: In discussing the role of the tituli accompanying the arms, I will explain the different degrees of the viewer’s participation.

Sabine Sommerer finished her studies at Basel University with a master thesis about the painted ceiling in one of the earliest and best preserved medieval mansions in the city of Basel (Schönes Haus), published in 2004. She worked as project assistant in the SNF-Project „Literatur und Wandmalerei“ at the Universitiy of Fribourg and was in charge of the database „Mittelalterliche Wandmalerei in Profanbauten“ (online: http://wandmalereie.imareal.sbg.ac.at), before she went abroad to Florence and Rome to finish her PhD about the profane mural paintings in the Camera d’Amore in Sabbionara, Trentino, in 2007 (publication date: 2012). From 2007–2014 she worked on a volume in the series “Monuments of art history of Switzerland”, recently published. Since 2013 she teaches and researches as senior assistant at the University of Zurich. Her main interests include profane medieval art, Trecento Painting, perception history, and history of architecture – her current research project focuses on the mediality of medieval thrones.



The paper will be given at the international workshop: Heraldry in Medieval and Early Modern State-Rooms: Towards a Typology of Heraldic Programmes in Spaces of Self-Representation – Münster, Germany, 16-18 March 2016
Cite the article as: Heraldica Nova, "[Paper:] Facebook avant la lettre: Real and Fictive Friends in Medieval Urban Houses (Sabine Sommerer)", in: Heraldica Nova: Medieval and Early Modern Heraldry from the Perspective of Cultural History (a Hypotheses.org blog), published: 26/02/2016, Internet: https://heraldica.hypotheses.org/4329.

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