Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Herr Wernher von Teufen or Man and woman with a hawk
  • Creator:
  • Description:

    This is a miniature from the Manesse Codex. The Codex was created in 1300, and then supplemented in 1340 with a few extra pages of poems. The Manesse Codex, also known as the Great Heidelberg Book of Songs, is the most comprehensive collection of ballads and epigrammatic poetry written in Middle High German. It was compiled mostly by Rüdiger Manesse of Zurich, and his son. The Codex contained 6,000 verses written by 140 poets beginning with secular songs from 1150/60 all the way up to 1300, and a few addenda from 1340. There are no melody notations; however, there are 138 colorful miniatures dedicated to 137 of the poets, with each poet participating in courtly activities. These miniatures were created by 4 different illustrators and arrange the images of poets in order of their social rank.

    The miniature depicts a man and woman on horseback. The man seems to be entranced by the woman while she is riding side saddle, carrying a falcon on her arm. Presumably they are out hunting with falcons in the countryside, an activity that was reserved for individuals of high status. While the woman remains anonymous, the man can be identified as Wernher von Teufen, one of the poets recorded in the Manesse Codex. Although there are many miniatures depicting the sport of falconry, few images depict a woman holding the falcon.

    Falconry was a popular activity for the upper echelons of medieval society. It was an expensive sport known for being both time-consuming and a marker of status. In the medieval period, a good quality falcon was very valuable, and could cost a significant portion of a knight’s yearly income. Falcons were prized for being highly trained and a key part of an important courtly ritual. It did not matter what kind of game they were able to catch.

    It was not unheard of for high-born women to fly falcons during the medieval period. They flew them with other women, or with their husbands or lovers. Hunting too was not beyond the realm of possibility for medieval women. Some women even rode out on hunts for deer and boars. Falconry was such a common occurrence for women that the seals of noblewomen often portrayed ladies engaging in it. A love of falconry, regardless of a person’s sex, was seen as an innate characteristic of noble lineage.

    Because of its prominence as a part of courtly life, falconry was an important symbol in medieval art. It was fairly commonplace to make a comparison between a knightly hero and a bird of prey. More importantly, though, falconry and falcons were frequently associated with love. Falconry was an activity that could be undertaken by lovers. The act of a falcon in pursuit of prey was often compared to the pursuit of a woman by a man wherein the man is the falcon and the woman is the prey. An image of a pair of lovers holding a falcon is often a covert symbol for sexual relations. Falconry was also associated with courtly love because it was such an important characteristic of courtly life. However, in this image the woman is holding the hawk while Wernher von Teufen embraces her lovingly. This gives the woman the power in this relationship and perhaps implies that she was either of higher status or the hunter with the poet as her prey.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Codex Manesse Courtly Love Falcon, Image of Heraldry Hunting Minnesang, Literary Genre Sexuality
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 14
  • Date: ca. 1305-1340
  • Related Work: Codex Manesse. See the full text of the manuscript on the University of Heidelberg site;
    Courting couple with young man holding a hawk on his wrist, ivory mirror case, Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum M.25-1933;
    Lady with her hawk hunting a hare, Taymouth Hours, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 74r.
  • Current Location: Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, 69r
  • Original Location: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Manuscript Illuminations
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Vellum (parchment); Paint
  • Donor: Laymen; Aristocrat Rüdiger Manesse and his son Johannes Manesse
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 35.5/25/
  • Inscription: Her Wernher von Teufen XXVI
  • Related Resources: Codex Manesse.  University Library of Universität Heidelberg.  2015;
    Cummins, John.  The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting.  St. Martin's Press, 1988;
    Hope, Henry. "Miniatures, Minnesänger, Music: the Codex Manesse" In Manuscripts and Medieval Song: Inscription, Performance, Context. Ed. Helen Deeming and Elizabeth Eva Leach. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pages 163-192;
    Marvin, William P. "Hunting and Falconry."  Women and Gender in Medieval Europe.  Ed. Margaret Schaus. Routledge, 2006;
    Oggins, Robin S. The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2004;
    Standley, ELeanor.  "Ladies Hunting: A Late Medieval Decorated Mirror Case from Shapwick Somerset." Antiquaries Journal 88 (November 2008): 198-206.