The famous Augsburg family Fuggers are still considered to have been one of the wealthiest families in the world of all times, and since they were based in Augsburg, and also lived in Nuremberg and other well-known centres of fencing, it would only seem natural that at least some members of this family trained fencing in the Liechtenauer tradition. Here are some clues that might just reinforce this thought.
The images below are taken from the book Das Ehrenbuch der Fugger (BSB Cgm.9460) from 1545-48. It depicts various members of the family and was probably commissioned by Anton Fugger, his brother Raymund or the cousin Hieronymus.
These are very interesting for many reasons, but especially so for us HEMA fencers when we examine the small figures at the bottom of several pages, seen below.
Together with the Fuggerorum published 70 years later and the ornaments framing the foreword of Paulus Hector Mair’s Cod.Icon 393 from 1542, they hint at possible links between the Fuggers and the fencing schools of the time, and possibly even Paulus Hector Mair himself.
So, a logical line for further research here would be to investigate the possible ties between Paulus Hector Mair and the Fugger family.
Paulus Hector Mair was a collector of fechtbuchen and in the 1540s he commissioned several magnificent fechtbuchen himself, which he dedicated to Jakob Fugger “The Rich”, uncle of Anton Fugger. Unfortunately he appears to have financed these treatises partly with funds supposedly stolen from the city treasure of Augsburg, which he had been entrusted to supervise by the city council of Augsburg in 1541. The image to the right shows Jakob Fugger, patron of Albrecht Dürer.
As a result he was charged with embezzlement and was hung as a thief in 1579 at the age of 62, perhaps a bit surprisingly since he had published his books about 35 years earlier. Which may of course lead us to ask ourselves how large a factor the actual fechtbuchen were in these charges. No matter what, the Fuggers would likely have had more than one finger in this, since they were both the biggest tax payer in the city and extremely powerful members of the city council.
“Little Fuggers” in Cod.icon.313 from 1542
As can be seen from the comparison below between images from the Ehrenbuch and Mair’s treatises, it would seem obvious that the illustrator of the Ehrenbuch or the Fuggers themselves had access to a copy of Mair’s De Arte Athletica (Cod.Icon.393) from 1542 (left).
Mair’s treatises are clearly amongst the most beautiful treatises within the whole Liechtenauer lineage and has received surprisingly little attention amongst the HEMA fencers, perhaps partly due to the massive amount of material contained within the thousands of pages.
Another lead in this research is the Paulus Hector Mair book “Geschlechterbuch der Stadt Augsburg” (BSB-Hss Cod.icon. 312 b) from 1550, which depicts Hans Jacob, Anton and Georg Fugger, and possibly even Paulus Hector Mair himself. Two images from this book can be seen above.
The family ties may get even more intermingled when we consider that Hans Holbein the Elder‘s mother Anna was born from a “Mair” family (sister of the Augsburg painter Hans Mair), and Holbein the Elder painted several members of the Fugger family as well. However, it is unclear if this is the same Mair-family or two completely separate families.
Hans Holbein the younger, The son of Hans Holbein, moved to Basel, where he in 1516 painted a portrait of the Bürgermeister Jakob Meyer and his wife. Basel is also the city where Joachim Meyer was born in 1537 and it was an important city in the development of the Reformation, since both Jean Cauvin (John Calvin) and Huldrych Zwingli lived in this city in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Again, it is unclear if Joachim was actually related to Jakob.
One final piece to this puzzle; Matthäus Schwarz, the Hauptbuchhalter (Chief accountant) for the Fugger family. Matthäus is mostly known for his passion for clothes, which is obvious in his fantastic Trachtenbuch des Matthäus Schwarz of 1560.
Within this book, painted by Cristoph Amberger and Narcissus Renner, there is an image depicting him holding a “fechtschwert” as can be seen to the left. The text indicates that he too was a fencer, at least for a brief time.
Here follows a series of images with details from the plates from the Ehrenbuch followed by two images from the Fuggerorum. Mixed between them are images from Paulus Hector Mair’s manual C.93 from 1550, Cod.Icon.393 from 1542 and the related sketchbook by Jörg Breu from 1540 named Codex 126.96.36.199.
Addendum May 16th 2011It should perhaps come as no surprise that the illustrator of the fencing manuals of Paul Hektor Mair, Jörg Breu d.J, was actually also the illustrator of the “Geheimes Ehrenbuch der Fugger”, as well as the painter of the Fugger Chapel St. Anna in Augsburg.
Now this may of course cast a little doubt about whether some of the Fuggers actually did practice fencing, but when regarding the article Towns and Defence in Later Medieval Germany by David Eltis, it would still seem quite likely.
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Sources: (These will be updated properly shortly)