IMAGES: SIGNS AND PHENOMENA OF TIME

A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg

12—14 November 2015

The Statua Danielis: Time as political eschatology in the Holy Roman Empire


The Saxon court artist Giovanni Maria Nosseni created in 1601 a wooden statue representing a colossal figure made of four different metals. The head of the figure was covered with gold, the chest with silver, the rump with bronze, and the legs with iron. Nosseni explained the meaning of the statue in a book, where he wrote that it was inspired by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, 31-44. The prophet Daniel interprets the dream as a succession of four empires according to Hesiod’s periodization of a Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Age. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream the statue is destroyed by a stone rolling from a mountain. The stone represents the Messiah and God’s everlasting Kingdom. Since the times of the church father Hieronymus, the four empires were identified with Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome, and the stone was taken as a symbol of the Second Coming of Christ on Judgement Day. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards, pictorial representations of the Statua Danielis became quite popular in Germany. They are closely connected with Philipp Melanchthon’s publication of Johannes Carion’s chronicle. The earliest known representation of the Statua Danielis within a decidedly political context is a painting by Daniel Frese in the council chamber of the Lüneburg town hall (1575). A second, monumental painting of the Statua Danielis in the same town hall is based on a wood cut in Lorenz Faust’s Anatomia Statuae Danielis, published 1585/86 in Leipzig. The Statua Danielis is a combination of a human figure with the four empires and the history of salvation. This image of time was informed by the political idea of the translation of empires (Translatio Imperii). According to this idea, the Holy Roman Empire was a continuation of the Roman Empire, which, as the fourth empire, would end with the Second Coming of Christ. The Statua Danielis representing the succession of the four empires was a powerful image of the political understanding of time, which connected the present political power of the Holy Roman Empire with the historical past and with Christian eschatology. Until around 1800, the idea of the Translatio Imperii was widely accepted in German political theory. In my contribution I shall present my recent research on political iconography in the early modern era and on the Statua Danielis as a specific image of time in a transdiciplinary context, by crossing the boundaries between art history, archaeology, history and theology.


Barbara Uppenkamp, PhD, is an art historian with a specialization in art and architecture c. 1500-1800, with a focus on Northern European Renaissance and Baroque; religious and political iconography; history and theory of architecture from the 16th to the 20th centuries; issues of methodology and visual culture. She studied Art History, Philosophy and Indo- European Studies at the University of Hamburg, where she was a fellow of the post graduate programme ‘Political Iconography’. She finished her PhD dissertation on the ideal city ‘Heinrichstadt’ (Wolfenbüttel) in 2001. She worked as a Museum curator at the Weserrenaissance-Museum Schloss Brake in Lemgo before she became a lecturer at the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Reading (U.K.). She was a fellow of the J. Paul Getty foundation, Los Angeles (U.S.A.), a guest lecturer at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, and a research fellow at the Department of Art History at the University of Hamburg. Her latest position was a lectureship at the Department of Art Science at University of Kassel’s Academy of Fine Art. Since 2014 she works as an independent scholar.

Fife important publications of the last fife years
[2015] ‘Representation of History: The Four Empires and the Statua Danielis in the Castle of Güstrow’, in: B. Bøggild Johannsen und K. Ottenheym (Eds.): Beyond Scylla and Charybdis. European Courts and Court Residences outside Habsburg and Valois/ Bourbon Territories 1500-1700, Copenhagen: University Press of Southern Denmark/ Publications from the National Museum. Studies in Archaeology and History, pp. 250-262
[2014] Das Lüneburger Rathaus. Ergebnisse der Untersuchungen 2008 bis 2011, ed. by Joachim Ganzert, 2 vols., Petersberg: Imhof, chapter: ‘Politische Ikonographie im Rathaus zu Lüneburg’, vol. 2, pp. 247-353
[2014] ‘Rubens and Antiquarianism. New thoughts on the two versions of the Massacre of the Innocents’, zus. mit Ben van Beneden, Fragmenta, Journal of the Royal Netherlandish Institute in Rome 5 (2011) [2014] Special Issue: Art and Knowledge, ed. by Thijs Weststeijn, pp. 139-176
[2012] ‘Forum: The Visual Turn in Early Modern German History and Historiography’, together with Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Bridget Heal and Larry Silver, German History. The Journal of the German History Society 30, no. 4, Dec. 2012, pp. 574-591
[2011] Palazzo Rubens. The Master as Architect, Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2011, together with Ben van Beneden

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