Oswald quoting Neidhart: “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21) & “Der sawer kúbell” (w1)

In a recent article Michael Shields[1] had proposed a hitherto unnoticed canon in the oeuvre of Oswald von Wolkenstein. He argued that the third section of “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21) was intended as a “fuga” because the transmission in WolkA (A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r-v) features strange and seemingly functionless clef-changes. They would, however, be in the right places if they were meant to mark the entrance of a second voice and the beginning of the ouvert ending (for a comprehensive discussion and a transcription of the piece, see Shields, Hidden Polyphony[1]). The resulting canon in two-voices works in a rustic kind of way with dissonances similar to those found in the canon “Martein, lieber herre” by the Monk of Salzburg:

Oswald von Wolkenstein: "Ir alten weib" (Kl 21; A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r), third section.

Oswald von Wolkenstein: “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21; A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r), third (canonic?) section.

Shields noted other remarkable features of this song, particularly in its text: one verse appears to quote the humanist Giustiniani (c1383-1446) and the contemporary Italian practice of accompanying songs in this tradition with string instruments such as the lira da braccio and the cetra: “und freut mich vil fúr Jöstlins saitenspil.” (“and delights me much more than Giustiniani’s songs performed on the fiddle.”[2]) Furthermore, the song text has an unusual amount of musical allusions, even for Oswald, quoting—apart from Giustiniani and the “saitenspiel”—dancing, singing, a musical form (“hofeweis”, used here in the double meaning of “courtly manner” and “Hofweise”, a meistersinger genre) and birdsong. Finally, Shields noticed a close proximity to the Neidhart genre, especially in the first strophe.[3] Furthermore, Oswald’s song text can be found anonymously and with some additions in the late Neidhart-Fuchs prints from Augsburg (1495), Nuremberg (1537) and Frankfurt (1566) and thus shows that late 15th century compilers considered the text to be from a Neidhart song.

This claim can be substantiated with some additional observations: Continue reading


A Cognate to “Verlangen thut mich krencken” (Loch 35)

The new cognate in the Hohenfurter Liederbuch to a well-known and today widely performed monophonic song from the Locham Songbook may not be as spectacular as the latest find of a contrafact in the same source (see the last blog entry on “Talent m’est pris” and “Es ist geporn ain kindelein”) but it nonetheless draws even more attention to this songbook full of sacred contrafacts.

“Wol auf, wir wellens wecken”

CZ-VB 8b, fol. 74v-75r - "Wolauff wir wellens wecken"

CZ-VB 8b, fol. 74v-75r – “Wolauff wir wellens wecken”

The song “Wol auf, wir wellens wecken” on fol. 74v-75r of the Hohenfurter Liederbuch (Hoh 46; CZ-VB 8b; Southern Germany, c1450) looks like a compressed and re-arranged version of “Verlangen thut mich krencken” from the contemporaneous Lochamer Liederbuch (Loch 35; D-B Mus. ms. 40613, p. 33, Nuremberg c1450). Continue reading

A New Contrafact on “Talent m’est pris”

A new contrafact in a well-known source has come to light and I would like to thank Regina Schmidt, who studied with me and who is credited with the discovery of this version, for sharing her finding and allowing me to present it on my blog site.

[20/06/2016 Update: Two years after this seemingly new find we were made aware that the contrafact had independently been identified in a Czech publication some ten years previously: Jaromír Cerný et al. (eds.): Historicka antologie hudby v ceských zemích (do cca 1530) / Historical anthology of music in the Bohemian lands (up to ca 1530), Prague (Koniasch Latin Press) 2005, pp. 122-123. My thanks go Reinhard Strohm who found the reference.]

The Hohenfurter Liederbuch (CZ-VB 8b; Southern Germany, c1450) is an exciting source for sacred contrafacts on secular songs in the vernacular. The annotations to some of the songs by the first editor of the manuscript, Wilhelm Bäumker, show that he had realized the significance of this manuscript and identified many concordances and cognates.[1] The song no. 52 “O sünder, grosser sünder” (“O sinner, great sinner”) on the popular melody “Nu lobe linde lobe” (“Now leaf, linden tree, leaf”)[2] is a good example for the procedure of providing secular songs with new, sacred texts, a practice, which is also witnessed by a number of other German sources from the same time, such as the Codex St. Emmeram (D-Mbs Clm 14274; Vienna & Regensburg c1435-c1450), the now lost Strasbourg Codices (the Strasbourg manuscript (olim: F-Sm 222 C. 22; Zofingen, c1410 & Basel c1435) and the Songbook of Heinrich Laufenberg (olim: F-Sm, B 121; first half 15th century), both consumed by fire in 1870), as well as the slightly later Pfullinger Liederhandschrift (D-Sl Cod. theol. et phil. 4° 190; Pfullingen, c1470/80) and the Songbook of Anna of Cologne (D-B mgo 280; c1500).

“Es ist geporn ain kindelein” (CZ-VB 8b, fol. 118r-119r)

It is worthwhile to occasionally revisit such well-known sources, as this new find reminds us: No. 72 of the Hohenfurter Liederbuch (CZ-VB 8b, fol. 118r-119r)—”Es ist geporn ain kindelein”—proves to be a German contrafact on the anonymous French chasse (actually a round) “Talent m’est pris” (2-3vv)[3], which up to now had gone unnoticed. Continue reading

Oswald quoting Oswald: Crossing the Border to Polyphony

It is a well established fact that Oswald’s musical work features a plenitude of contrafacts, musical borrowings and melodic intertextuality. Oswald was clearly not only taking over complete melodies or polyphonic settings from other composers, he was not only writing contrafacts on his own compositions, but was also re-using and re-assembling melodic bits and pieces from his own material to create new songs.

The free interchange of phrases or whole melodic parts within Oswald’s monophonic oeuvre has long been known (e.g. the refrain of “Es seusst dort her von orient” (Kl 20) provides also the refrain for “Ich spür ain lufft” (Kl 16)[1] and certain phrases of “Ain jetterin” (Kl 83) can be found in “Gelück und hail” (Kl 61) amongst other pieces).

Organum-Like Polyphony

One case of such self-borrowing, which has not been discussed in musical scholarship up to now, sheds new light on the interrelationship between Oswald’s monophonic and polyphonic output. Not only does that show the interrelation between monophony and polyphony (traditionally treated separately within musicology), but it also strongly suggests that Oswald himself—or someone he was closely working with—was responsible for those compositions in two voices, which I like to refer to as “organum-like”. Continue reading

Does “fa-mi fa-mi” spell “fumeux fume”?

Fumeux fume par fumee
Fumeuse speculacion.
Qu’antre fum met sa pensee;
Fumeux fume par fumee
Quar fumer molt li agree:
Tant qu’il ait son entencion,
Fumeux fume par fumee
Fumeuse speculacion.

The smoker smokes, through smoke
smoky speculations.
Which keeps his thinking in the smoke;
The smoker smokes, through smoke
For smoking suits him very well
As long as it is his intention.
The smoker smokes, through smoke
smoky speculations.

While preparing a transcription of the famous Solage composition “Fumeux fume” for a concert programme during the course of my studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in 2004 an idea came to me which since has crossed my mind every once in a while: What if the extreme use of ficta in the piece can be explained as a solmisation game in which the singers are constantly forced to think of the syllables “fa-mi” while performing the chanson? The play between the actual text with its ever reoccurring inflexions of “fume” and the forced solmisation syllables “fa-mi” could open up a new perspective on the interaction of text and music in this piece. At the same time the plenitude of accidentals causes the system of solmisation to run into its limits because “mi-fa”-places are persistently inserted all over the piece, thus literally “clouding” its tonality—just like “fume” clouds the mind. I was sure that the idea of “fa-mi” being used to spell out “fume” in this chanson had already been considered and written about, but since I have not yet come across any mention of this notion I decided to lay out the idea here.

It seems that the concept of solmisation in “Fumeux fume” is consciously reduced to absurdity. This is reminiscent of similarly ficta-rich compositions such as “Lantefana” by Ser Lo”re”renço (GB-Lbl add 29987, fol. 55) which apparently was designed as a sort of practice or test-piece to deliberately lead students of solmisation astray. Naturally one can assign a majority of the pitches in such chromatic pieces to “fa” or “mi”, but as far as the chanson at hand is concerned I believe it not to be a coincidence that these two syllables neatly spell out the word “fume”.

It was a sequence in the chanson’s B-part which first drew my attention to the idea, which is marked out by ficta signs as 8 “fa-mi”s in a row:

"Fa-mi" sequence in the B-section of "Fumeux fume".

“Fa-mi” sequence in the B-section of “Fumeux fume”.

In the following rendition of the sequence the explicit “fa” and “mi” positions are marked above the notes, while implicit “fa” and “mi” positions are marked below the corresponding notes in brackets:

"Fa-mi" sequence with marked solmisation syllables (explicit syllables above the notes, implicit syllables below).

“Fa-mi” sequence with marked solmisation syllables (explicit syllables above the notes, implicit syllables below-with the first two notes being “f” and “e” of the natural hexachord thus not in need of specific accidentals).

It is almost immediately followed by its inversion (three times “mi-fa”):

"Mi-fa" sequence near the end of "Fumeux fume".

“Mi-fa” sequence near the end of “Fumeux fume”.

Once this code is pointed out, one cannot but notice a multitude of places in the chanson which seem to call out or even oscillate between “fa” and “mi”, and once this concept is accepted it can be used for making additional ficta decisions. There is of course a natural danger for a circular argument here and the concept can most certainly be overworked, but a number of places in the chanson appear quite telling, nonetheless—allow me to indulge in a slightly gaudy narrative: After tentatively spelling out “fume” in the first few bars throughout the three voices (the first “fa-mi” in the cantus, expected for the first two notes, is delayed until bar 5), the contratenor introduces a stuttering motif “mi, mi, mi”, which is being answered by all the voices in unison with “fa, fa, fa”, before it resolves into a “fa-mi” sequence in bars 9-11. The “fa”-stutter is picked up by the cantus for the final sequence of the A-part, almost like a confused question. The B-part seems to give the answer to this confusion by continually spelling out “fa-mi” until the rising motif of bars 38-40 where this statement is inverted to form another question mark: “mi-fa”?

It does not even need to be a coherent system—once the “smoke screen” is layed over the solmisation system and “mi-fa” places can turn up anywhere, it does not really matter if every position can be precisely pinned down: “fa-mi” = “fume” or “fumeux” is all over the place anyway.

The following transcription leaves out the text underlay in order to make room for suggestions of solmisation syllables. Also, the red notation of the manuscript is retained in the transcription in order to avoid additional color-brackets.

"Fumeux fume" by Solage (F-CH 564, fol. 59) with suggestions for solmisation syllables as a play on words: "fa-mi" spells out "fume". Red notation of original retained.

“Fumeux fume” by Solage (F-CH 564, fol. 59) with suggestions for solmisation syllables as a play on words: “fa-mi” spells out “fume”. Red notation of original retained.

This concept of mirroring the song text by constantly spelling out the word “fume” through the use of musica ficta (“fa-mi”), combined with the “stutters” (“fa-fa-fa”) and “questions” (“mi-fa”?) nicely contrasts an alternative reading of the song text—based on the assumption by Patricia Unruh in her thesis on the “Fumeur” poetry* that the concept of “fume” is connected to the humour of “cholerica”:

A quick-tempered man cooks up
volatile theories in his rage,
which clouds his mind.
A quick-tempered man cooks something up,
because it pleases him to fume with rage,
until he gets his way.
A quick-tempered man cooks up
volatile theories in his rage.

(Translation by M. Lewon)

The only other fumeur-poem surviving with music—Symonis Hasprois’ “Puisque je sui fumeux”—could be thought of as supporting the idea of “fa-mi” = “fume” (or in this case: “fumeux”): The first tendere place of the piece with its longa-note on c (which could be read as a c-sharp in order to support the inherent directed progression with subsequent cadenza fuggita) spells out “fa-mi” almost as if written with capital letters by using a brevis and a longa. Since thus the stress is transferred to the second syllable it seems as if the word “fumeux” is not only spelled out in the words of the cantus (in both A sections) here, but also in the music:

Beginning of "Puisque je sui fumeux" by Symonis Hasprois in F-CH 564, fol. 34 (tenor of the A-part in "modus perfectus"—see canon) with tendere-place marked as "fa-mi" = "fume".

Beginning of “Puisque je sui fumeux” by Symonis Hasprois in F-CH 564, fol. 34 (tenor of the A-part in “modus perfectus”—see canon) with tendere-place marked as “fa-mi” = “fume”.


Marc Lewon

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* Patricia Unruh: ‚Fumeur’ Poetry and Music of the Chantilly Codex: A Study of its Meaning and Background, Master’s Thesis, University of British Columbia, 1983.


The proceedings to an inspiring symposium on medieval dance songs, which was held in Würzburg/Germany in 2011, were recently published, including an article by myself on musical rhythm in Neidhart’s songs (Marc Lewon: “Vom Tanz im Lied zum Tanzlied? Zur Frage nach dem musikalischen Rhythmus in den Liedern Neidharts“. In: Das mittelalterliche Tanzlied (1100-1300). Lieder zum Tanz – Tanz im Lied, ed. Dorothea Klein with Brigitte Burrichter and Andreas Haug. Würzburg 2012 (= Würzburger Beiträge zur deutschen Philologie, vol. 37), p. 137-179. The article was already announced, including an abstract of the main points.

Das mittelalterliche Tanzlied (1100-1300). Lieder zum Tanz – Tanz im Lied, ed. Dorothea Klein with Brigitte Burrichter and Andreas Haug, Würzburg 2012 (= Würzburger Beiträge zur deutschen Philologie, vol. 37).

Das mittelalterliche Tanzlied (1100-1300). Lieder zum Tanz – Tanz im Lied, ed. Dorothea Klein with Brigitte Burrichter and Andreas Haug. Würzburg 2012 (= Würzburger Beiträge zur deutschen Philologie, vol. 37).

In this article I took a close look at the musicological historiography of Neidhart’s oeuvre, paying particular attention to those publications which in the past had made a point about musical rhythm. I was able to show that the oft-quoted “Neidhart dance song” was not an historical fact but rather ‘created’ by modern scholarship. In the heat of the argument, however, I had missed an important stepping stone on the path to a ‘danceable’ Neidhart repertoire: Josef Mantuani’s book on music in Vienna from 1907, in which he dedicates ample space to Neidhart’s songs. He was the first to clearly state that these songs were meant to be danced and that they should be performed in a lively, alternating, triple-metre rhythm—even when the notation bears no hint at a musical rhythm. He also provided transcriptions for 13 of his songs, in which he put this postulated rhythmic principle into practice. As an apology for my oversight and for the benefit of the readers I would like to provide the following addendum to my article which should be inserted on p. 142 right before the heading “Konrad Ameln & Wilhelm Rössle (1927)”.

Josef Mantuani (1907)

Nur zehn Jahre nach Riemanns umfangreicher Neidhart-Edition legte Josef Mantuani im musikalischen Anhang zu seiner Musikgeschichte der Stadt Wien 13 Neidhartlieder in diplomatischer Transkription sowie moderner, rhythmisierter Umschrift vor.* Dabei richtete er in seiner Edition alle Lieder in einem alternierenden 3er-, bzw. 6er-Rhythmus ein – sowohl solche, die im Original rhythmische Hinweise enthalten als auch solche, die in den Handschriften rhythmuslos notiert stehen.

Wenn das Notenbild seiner Edition schon suggestiv erscheint, so ist der Haupttext unmissverständlich: Neidharts Lieder sind für Mantuani rhythmusbetonte Tanzstücke in schlichtem „Volkston“.

„Seine Sommerlieder, die er „Reien“ nennt, als rhythmusangebender Gesang zum Tanz im Freien bestimmt, sind zwar echt volksthümlich, aber durchwegs vom persönlichen Temperament des Dichter-Musikers getragen und künstlerisch geläutert. Wir haben sie uns in glatt geregeltem, scharfem Rhythmus und in raschem Tempo vorzustellen; nur so werden sie uns verständlich. Oft tritt sogar die Sangbarkeit der Melodie – die unverfälschte Ueberlieferung angenommen – in den Hintergrund.

Den besten Commentar zum Verständniss dieser Tanzweisen können wir aber weder von einer  umfassenden Belesenheit, noch von gründlichen germanistischen Studien über Rhythmus und Strophenbau erwarten: alles lässt uns im Stich; nur die Autopsie belehrt uns an den noch immer lebenden Bauerntänzen über deren Wesen und Ausführung. [FN: Darnach ist, trotz aller tiefsinnigen Erörterungen, Deutungen, Rhythmusstudien und Versuche fast der ganze Complex der hierbei in Anwendung kommenden Bewegungen nach physiologisch-statischen Gesetzen choreographisch dreizeitig zu deuten:Rhythmus

Ich habe daher meine rhythmischen Uebertragungen (siehe Anhang num. XI-XXIII) darnach eingerichtet. Die Erklärungen sind dort beigefügt.] Es ist eine uralte Tradition, die sich unter den Bauern jener Gegenden, ohne dass es ihnen zum Bewusstsein kommt, forterhält und von Generation zu Generation überliefert wird.“+

Mantuani wird nicht müde, die prinzipiellen Aspekte von Neidharts Werk so darzustellen, wie sie schließlich die Performanz von Neidharts Liedern über das gesamte 20. Jahrhundert hinweg prägen sollten. Neidharts Dichtung und Musik ist demnach: 1.) realitätsnah und volkstümlich („Den Grund, auf dem die neue realistische Dichtung Neidharts aufgebaut ist, bilden die in abgelegeneren, daher auch conservativeren Gebieten damals noch erhaltenen und bekannten Volkslieder.“, S. 229), 2.) schlicht und eingängig („Was nun die Musik zu allen diesen Liedern betrifft, so ist sie bei Neidhart, ihrem Zwecke entsprechend, wirklich populär und leichtfasslich.“, S. 247; „Seine Musik ist demnach im wahren Sinne des Wortes populär, daher auch für ungeschulte Kehlen ausführbar gewesen und unterscheidet sich von der regelstrengen Composition vieler seiner Zeitgenossen durch eine gewisse Sorglosigkeit.“, S. 248) und 3.) sowohl rhythmisch akzentuiert als auch tänzerisch („Sie sind bei ihm ganz klar […] Tanzlieder[.], die einen ausgeprägten Rhythmenfluss fordern […]“, S. 247).

Für seine Musikgeschichte Wiens machte Mantuani ausgiebigen Gebrauch von den Inhalten der Neidart-Liedtexte als Steinbruch und Quelle für seine Beschreibung des zeitgenössischen Tanzlebens. Dabei verschwimmen die Grenzen zwischen dichterischer Fiktion, möglichem realem Kern und praktischer Funktion des Liedes, so dass in Mantuanis Historiographie letztlich all diese Aspekte zu einem konturlosen Ganzen verschmelzen, die Lieder also zu einem Teil der Praxis gemacht werden, die sie scheinbar selbst beschreiben. Als einzige Belege für eine vermeintlich tänzerische Aufführungspraxis aller Neidhartinterpretationen (vom „originalen“ Neidhart bis hin zu seiner Rezeption im 15. Jahrhundert) führt er dabei die späten Neidhartspiele (u.a. von Hans Sachs) an, in denen Neidhart in persona als Vorsänger zum Tanz auftritt (S. 157), sowie einen Bericht von Kaiser Maximilian I. über einen „Neidharttanz“ im Jahre 1495 (S. 357, FN 1).#

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* Josef Mantuani: Musik in Wien. Von der Römerzeit bis zur Zeit des Kaisers Max I. Hildesheim/New York, ND 1979 (ursprünglich erschienen in: Geschichte der Stadt Wien, III. Band, I. Hälfte, Wien 1907), Melodien XI-XXIII, S. 420-429.

+ Mantuani, Musik in Wien. S. 231.

# Victor von Kraus: Maximilians I. vertraulicher Briefwechsel mit Sigmund Prüschenk, Freiherrn zu Stettenberg. Nebst einer Anzahl zeitgenössischer das Leben am Hofe beleuchtender Briefe. Innsbruck 1875, S. 101f.

Here’s looking at miniatures: Master Frauenlob and “Lady Music”

[The principle ideas of the following findings were already announced on page 110 of the article: Marc Lewon: Wie klang Minnesang? Eine Skizze zum Klangbild an den Höfen der staufischen Epoche, in: Dichtung und Musik der Stauferzeit. Wissenschaftliches Symposium der Stadt Worms vom 12. bis 14. November 2010, ed. Volker Gallé, (= Schriftenreihe der Nibelungenlied-Gesellschaft Worms, Bd. 7), Worms 2011, S. 69-123. With this blog entry I would like to follow up some leads which I could not lay out in full in said article.]

In 2002 Lothar Voetz, one of my professors for medieval German literature at Heidelberg University, published an interesting article on the well-known Neidhart miniature in the famous Codex Manesse: “Beobachtungen zur Neidhart-Miniatur im Codex Manesse”, in: Ars et Scientia. Festschrift für Hans Szklenar zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. by Roswitha Wisniewski and Carola L. Gottzmann, Berlin 2002, p. 135-156.

In his article Voetz convincingly shows how the painter of the Neidhart miniature composed the picture by using a well-established iconic archetype as a model for the image build-up. The miniature shows the minnesinger Neidhart in the centre of the picture with one hand raised in a vowing and the other in a rejecting gesture. He is surrounded by four individuals frozen in expressive arm and hand movements, wearing outfit, which by the standards of the Codex Manesse miniatures can only be described as extravagant and unusual. Their features also are amongst the most extreme of the otherwise very bland and stylised facial expressions found in the codex, almost bordering on the grotesque.

“Herr Neidhart” – Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, cpg 848, fol. 273r

Lothar Voetz found that the artist of this picture used a model to compose the miniature, which he apparently found within the canon of pictures in the Speculum humanae salvationis. Particularly the depiction in the Manuscript Kremsmünster, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 243, fol. 30va, caught his attention. In this picture captioned “Synagoga derisit Christum regem suum et dominum”, which depicts the mockery of Jesus, four “jews” turn onto the cross and taunt Jesus:

“Mocking of Jesus” – Kremsmünster, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 243, fol. 30va

With the identification of this model Voetz not only demonstrated how professional workshops in Southern Germany c1300 went about the creation of new pictures, but also proved that the figures surrounding Neidhart in his “portrait” are by no means benevolent “friends”, but actually (as was long assumed) the “dörper”-antagonists of the lyrical self. These “villains” from Neidhart’s own songs habitually turn against the singer and taunt him. The artist of the Neidhart miniature obviously recognised this connection and thus did not only find a model to create a new picture, but also gave another layer of meaning to the depicted scene.

Voetz’ discovery was long dormant in my mind when I was reminded of it in 2011 at a conference in South Tyrol. My doctoral advisor Reinhard Strohm gave a lecture at the symposium when he showed a late medieval depiction of Lady Music, surrounded by musical instruments. I was reminded of the Notre Dame depiction of Musica instrumentalis as the third and lowest of the threefold depiction of Musica mundana, Musica humana, and Musica instrumentalis in the Florence Manuscript (Firenze, Biblioteca mediceo-laurenziana, Pluteo 29.1, fol. 1v) and suddenly saw the parallels to the famous Frauenlob miniature in Codex Manesse (Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, cpg 848, fol. 399r). I laid the two next to each other and could not but be amazed at their similar make-up:

Threefold “Musica” with “musica instrumentalis” marked: Firenze, Biblioteca mediceo-laurenziana, Pluteo 29.1, fol. 1v and “Meister Heinrich Vrouwenlob”: Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, cpg 848, fol. 399r.

The parallels are most striking: Both pictures are clearly divided into two image fields. In the case of Musica the fields are situated next to each other. This is of course due to the layout of the threefold musica-picture in the Florence Manuscript, where the vertical structures are taken up by the different characters and hierarchical classes of musica mundana, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis, of which only the latter—the actual “sounding music”—is of interest here. In the case of Frauenlob, where a whole page was available to the painter, the setup is vertical with the two image fields situated above one another:

In both cases the hierarchically higher field is taken up by a figure sitting on a throne in a slightly inclined posture:

In both cases the figure is raising a finger and holding a staff in its hand:

Furthermore the figure in the musica depiction, Lady Music herself, is wearing a veil and crown, almost identical to the female in the coat of arms and on the helmet decoration in the Frauenlob miniature (both of them fantasy-heraldry):

The second image field contains one musician in the centre playing a musical instrument—in both cases a vielle, the most important of secular instruments, and the most suitable to accompany cantus coronatus, i.e. minnesang (see Grocheio’s appraisal of the instrument). This player, whose posture (and even greyish hair—interestingly, the only other musician holding a vielle, features the same grey hair and beard) is almost identical in both miniatures, is surrounded by 6 other instruments. In the case of the musica depiction, these instruments seem to hang on the walls or lie on the floor, while in the case of the Frauenlob miniature they are being held by a surrounding group of other instrumental soloists. In both cases the number of instruments (and in one case the combination of two instruments, which only together form an entity: pipe and tabor) amounts to an allegorical number of 7:


  1. vielle
  2. harp-psaltery
  3. harp
  4. bagpipe
  5. pipe & tabor
  6. free-neck citole
  7. thumb-hole citole


  1. vielle
  2. shawm
  3. vielle
  4. psaltery
  5. bagpipe
  6. tabor (pipe probably hidden)
  7. transverse flute

I would like to suggest the following interpretation:

Because Frauenlob was held in such high esteem by his contemporaries (and by generations to come) as one of the greatest masters and teachers of music, the painter of his miniature apparently found it adequate to compare or associate him with the highest authority in the field: the personified Lady Music herself. It has been suspected before that Frauenlob might be identified with the vielle-player in the middle of the lower image field, who is also more kingly dressed than the surrounding onlookers. But by analogy with Lady Music’s position in the supposed model it seems that the person sitting on the throne must be Meister (= Master, i.e. Magister) Heinrich Frauenlob as an allegorical emperor and teacher of his “school”. The coat of arms and helmet crest mirrors the image of Lady Music from the model but at the same time is reinterpreted here as the “woman” in his sobriquet “Frauenlob” (“he who praises women”) and simultaneously as the Virgin Mary, who is actually the addressee of his most extensive and best-known song of praise, his “Marienleich” (“Lai to the Virgin Mary”). The painted scene in the Frauenlob miniature may thus be read as the standardised depiction of a teaching situation, however realistic (in case of an assumed “school” led by Frauenlob) or symbolic (in case of his invisible influence on his followers and successors), superimposed on the personified idea of a governing principle (i.e. Lady Music)—the concept of a higher, invisible guiding force behind the sounding phenomenon of music.

There are other depictions of “musica” which reiterate some of the observed details of this assumed archetype: The image of the crowned Lady Music sitting on a throne-like structure, sometimes with a raised hand or finger and often surrounded by instruments (which seems to be a fairly obvious setting) is well-established. However, no other depiction of “musica” or “musica instrumentalis” that I am aware of, comes nearly as close to the Frauenlob miniature as the one in the Florence Manuscript. Thus it might be a bit premature to proclaim a “new” archetypical layout for musica depictions with this being the only unequivocal piece of evidence. It is on the other hand maybe not a coincidence that both the Florence “musica instrumentalis” and the Frauenlob miniature fit so well with their respective dating of c1250 and 1305.

Even though it may seem superfluous to mention, I would like to point to a misconception, which occasionally still can be found in mainstream publications: In his miniature Frauenlob is not “conducting” an “orchestra”, as had been suggested in earlier descriptions and interpretations. For one the concept of an orchestra and a conductor (and especially the conductor’s baton) was yet many centuries away, furthermore the depicted staff was a typical attribute for a teacher, as was the gesture of the raised finger, which still is a symbol of instruction today (even if considered bad form). Finally the assorted musicians are all merely holding their instruments, while only one is actually playing—just as in the Florence depiction of “musica instrumentalis”.

Marc Lewon

[2015-03-14] Update 1: The contents of this blog entry including additional observations concerning the Regenbogen-miniature in Codex Manesse and Pythagoras depictions (see the comment by Michael Shields to this entry) can be found as a published article: Marc Lewon: “Meister Heinrich Frauenlob und Frau Musica. Eine neue Deutung der Frauenlob-Miniatur im ‘Codex Manesse'”, in: Klein, Dorothea und Hübner, Gert (eds.): Sangspruchdichtung um 1300. Akten der Tagung in Basel vom 7. bis 9. November 2013, Hildesheim (Weidmannsche Verlagsbuchhandlung) 2015 (Spolia Berolinensia, vol. 33), pp. 293–306.

[2015-06-21] Update 2: I was just made aware via an excellent article which adds new observations to the interpretation of the Fraubenlob-miniature by Henry Hope („Miniatures, Minnesänger, music: the Codex Manesse“, in: Deeming, Helen and Elizabeth Eva Leach (eds.): Manuscripts and Medieval Song, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 2015, pp. 163–192) that some of the central ideas put forth in this blog entry were already discovered and published by Dagmar Axthelm: Hoffmann-Axthelm, Dagmar: „Doctor Frauenlobs Hohes Lied. Ein Autorenbild aus der Manessischen Liederhandschrift als Topos-Mosaik“, in: Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis, vol. 11, Winterthur (Amadeus Verlag) 1987, pp. 153–172.

PS (Prospect): The concept of elevating exceptional musicians to the status of representatives of “Musica” herself seems to have caught on towards the later Middle Ages. Francesco Landini and Giovanni Mazzuoli, both playing the portative organ in the Codex Squarcialupi and surrounded by instruments in the margin decorations, are highly reminiscent of contemporary “Lady Music”-depictions on the one hand and of the Frauenlob-miniature on the other:

Miniature of Francesco Landini in Codex Squarcialupi (I-Fl Med. Pal. 87, fol. 121v; c1410–15) & representation of "Lady Music" with alta and bassa instruments.

Miniature of Francesco Landini in Codex Squarcialupi (I-Fl Med. Pal. 87, fol. 121v; c1410–15) & representation of “Lady Music” with alta and bassa instruments (I-Nn Ms. VA 14, fol. 17r).

The tombstone of Conrad Paumann in Munich seems to draw on a similar concept, especially since the epitaph above it declares him as “der musica maister”, i.e. the “master of music” or “Musica’s magister”:

Tombstone of Conrad Paumann in the Church of Our Lady, Munich (1473).

Tombstone of Conrad Paumann in the Church of Our Lady, Munich (1473).

For more background and a commented catalogue on medieval allegorical depictions of Lady Music in its relationship to the depiction of musicians from the same time, see Tilman Seebass: “Lady Music and her protégés: from musical allegory to musicians’ portraits”, in: Musica Disciplina, vol. XLII (1988), pp. 23-61.

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A new article has recently been published which addresses and explains the late medieval concept of “musica” very sensibly and with particular attention to the creators of German monophonic song; see: Strohm, Reinhard: “Lied und Musik”, in: Oswald von Wolkenstein im Kontext der Liedkunst seiner Zeit (= Jahrbuch der Oswald von Wolkenstein-Gesellschaft, Bd. 19), Wiesbaden (Reichert Verlag) 2012/2013.