Sunday, 11 July 2021

Wernher von Eistetten: The Puzzle Solved

In a previous post in January last year, I discussed a group of cuttings that seem to come from the Dominican nunnery at Zurich, and I laid out some 19th-century evidence suggesting they were illuminated in 1300 by Wernher von Eistetten, monk of Kaiserheim. But this presented a problem: as I wrote,

"It is not clear why a monk of the Cistercian abbey of Kaiserheim, in Bavaria, might write a manuscript for a nunnery in Zurich, about 260km to the south-west"

In December I thought I found the answer to the puzzle, in a book about Kaiserheim illumination which has a reproduction of a leaf in Munich:

Munich, Graphische Sammlung, Inv. 40229

But due to the relatively poor quality of the only avalable online image (shown above), and the inaccessibility of libraries due to Covid, I was not able to pursue it adequately. 

This week, however, Gaudenz Freuler, who has a detailed study of the Zurich cuttings in preparation, and with whom I have discussed the cuttings on several occasions, obtained a copy of the relevant book and kindly sent me a much better scan of the image, a detail of which is shown at the top of this post.

In the lower left corner of the leaf is the inscription that was not clearly visible in the online image:

"Anno do(min)i. Mo. ccco. Anti-
phonariu(m) ist(u)d (con)scriptu(m)
est a fr(atr)e w(er)nh(er)o de eistete(n)
monacho cesariensi p(ro) q(uo)

This wording is identical with that in the 1898 catalogue of the Weigel collection (the subject of several blogposts, starting with this one):

And it is obviously also the source of the note inscribed in German on the back of the cutting in Washington DC:

"Von Anno 1300 aus einem Antiphonarium vom Bruder
Wernher von Eistetten Monch zu Kaisersheim"

It is now plain that whoever wrote the Weigel catalogue knew the leaf that is now in Munich, signed by Wernher von Eistetten, and decided that the Zurich cuttings were also by him. This attribution must also have been avilable to the person who wrote the inscription on the back of the Washington cutting.

I have not yet been able to discover the provenance of the leaf in Munich, but I suspect that it was owned in the 19th century by the same person that owned some or all of the Zurich cuttings. I am sure that Gaudenz Freuler will have more to say on this issue in due course ...


  1. Dear Peter,

    Kaisersheim is a Cistercian monastery in Swabian Bavaria, today called Kaisheim (prison since the 19th century, today also with a museum of the penal system).

    Best regards


  2. Are you confident that all the cuttings are from the same manuscript? There seem to be different groupings of donors (dominican brothers and sisters plus hospitallers; dominican sister with a lay couple; dominican brother with a lay man), and it would be easier to explain their provenance if they came from different institutions. Of course it remains a good question why a Cistercian would have supplied Dominican religious houses with antiphoners!

    1. It's a reasonable question, but I think tht script and decoration suggest they all come from a single MS. Maybe the different groupings of figures reflect differing sources of funding for the book-making project? I think that Gaudenz Freuler will answer all these questions in his forthcoming monograph.



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