Jakob Meyer zum Hasen

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Jakob Meyer zum Hasen, 1516, painting by Hans Holbein the Elder J. , left panel of a double portrait with Dorothea Kannengiesser , Meyer's second wife. Oil on linden wood, each panel 38.5 × 31 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel , inv. No. 312
Dorothea Kannengiesser, Meyer's second wife, 1516, painting by Hans Holbein the Elder. J. , right panel of the double portrait with Jakob Meyer.

Jakob Meyer zum Hasen (* 1482 in Basel ; † 1531 there ) was mayor of the city of Basel from 1516 to 1521 . A money changer by profession, he was the first Basel mayor to belong neither to the nobility nor to an eight-burger family , but to a guild . Little is known about his life, "even a modest biography is missing". His name is known today mainly because of his role as client of the Darmstadt Madonna by Hans Holbein the Younger .


Job and family

Jakob Meyer zum Hasen was born in Basel in 1482. His parents were the shopkeeper Jakob Meyer and Anna Galizian, who came from a papermaking family (see Basler Papiermühle ). Meyer was a money changer by profession and had been a member of the guild since 1503 . As a so-called gentlemen's guild, it stood between the patrician eighth burgers and the craft guilds; goldsmiths, silver dealers and money changers had been organized in it since the 13th century. Because of their close association with the Basel bishop, they were considered to be his “housemates”. Since 1382 they were represented in the council with their own guild master. Meyer was a master there from 1510 to 1515. In addition, he was a member of the wine guild from 1503 and of the key guild from 1504 , both of which were also gentlemen's guilds. His initially rather modest exchange office was located in the Haus zum Hasen on the market square next to the town hall and contained "the exchange trough, the schrybzùg and a trough". The name addition "to the rabbit" is probably derived from the house to the rabbit. Whether it was, as is usual with such gender names, the ancestral seat of the old bourgeois family zum Hasen and whether Meyer belonged to it seems questionable, since his father did not use this addition and Meyer's non-patrician origin is emphasized. Presumably he named himself after the building simply to make the name different.

In 1508 Meyer acquired, in addition to his town house, at a price of 350 Rhenish guilders , the Gundeldinger Castle located outside the city, which included “wygerhuse, gesess, stoking and hoffstatt, gardens, vines, fields, mats, ruts, wood and velde, weg and stege with everything byfang understood, associated rights and affiliations, called Groß Gundeldingen [...] with sampt dem vyhe, küe, ross, wagen, schiff and crockery belonging to it and a lot of household items and federwat in it. " The Weiherschlösschen was one of a series of four castles that were built as stately mansions in Gundeldingen in the 14th and 15th centuries . Today one of the castles is still preserved, but this was probably not the one Meyer lived in.

In his first marriage, Jakob Meyer zum Hasen was married to Magdalena Bär, the sister of the legendary banner owner Hans Bär († 1515). She had previously been married to two socially high-ranking Basel residents and gave Meyer access to the economically influential people in the city. Meyer now joined Hans Gallizian in a trading company, worked as a publisher for the Archbishop of Besançon and speculated in real estate. Magdalena died in 1511 and was buried in St. Martin . In 1513 he married Dorothea Kannengiesser. In the same year their daughter Anna was born.

Broker of federal mercenaries

From 1507 to 1515 Meyer took part in the campaigns of Emperor Maximilian I in French-occupied northern Italy. Meyer experienced the capture of Genoa in 1507 as an ensign on the French side, and in 1510 he went as a captain on the side of the Pope against the Duke of Ferrara. In 1512 he was diplomatic negotiator on the imperial side against the French.

A system of " pension payments " had developed in Switzerland since the 1480s , within which foreign clients such as Austria, France, Milan, Venice, Savoy and the Pope paid large sums of money for the placement of Swiss mercenaries. Officially, this money went to the public purse, but the warring parties also paid tribute to influential officials. Under Meyer's aegis, the city of Basel accepted the first external pension payments. These included a pension of 1000 guilders in gold when an alliance with Pope Julius II was concluded in 1510 and an annual pension of 200 guilders on the occasion of the heir to Maximilian I in 1511. Further regular payments were made from 1512 onwards from Savoy and Milan a.

Meyer had participated in the enthronement of Duke Massimiliano Sforza of Milan in January 1512 and received a document dated July 23, 1512, which guaranteed him an annual pension of 100 Rhenish guilders for his services in the reconquest of the duchy. In March 1512, he therefore asked the council to approve this private pension for him and "several well-known persons from this council" who were not named. The council refused the application, but decided the following year to pay Meyer an annual share of 500 ducats from the Milan pension for his services. But when news of armed uprisings against pensioners in other Swiss cities arrived shortly afterwards, Meyer formally waived the payments. From June 1515, however, the council tacitly continued to pay out the pension.

First proper mayor

Jakob Meyer's coat of arms zum Hasen, subsequently executed by an unknown artist on the back of the portrait panel (see above)
The epitaph for Jakob Meyer zum Hasen, Johannes Oekolampad and Simon Grynaeus is adorned with a Latin funerary inscription in classical antiqua in the sense of humanism.  In German script there is a Reformation saying below: "So ehr / guot / art, helping in need, who does not kill any of the three".  ("If the honor they have earned, the good they have done, and the craftsmanship and skill they have demonstrated could help in an emergency, none of these three would be dead.")
Epitaph in the cloister of the Basel Minster for Jakob Meyer zum Hasen, Johannes Oekolampad and Simon Grynaeus

On Midsummer Day , June 24, 1516, the Kieserkollegium elected Jakob Meyer zum Hasen as mayor of the city of Basel. He was the first bourgeois mayor from the ranks of the guilds that had been represented in the Kieserkollegium since 1506, and in whose favor all privileges of the nobles and patricians, the so-called "high room", with access to public offices had been abolished in 1515. Presumably the choice was the reason for Hans Holbein d. J. to commission a double portrait with his second wife. Meyer is portrayed as a wealthy citizen with finger rings and a gold coin in his hand, in keeping with his profession. However, the gold coin is not identifiable. The art historian Nikolaus Meier also interprets the coin as a sign of a newly created money nobility. Jakob Meyer was a "homo novus", an upstart, who wanted to increase his reputation by commissioning Holbein. Another interpretation by Christl Auge interprets the coin as a reference to the privilege of the city of Basel to mint gold guilders, the enforcement of which can be traced back to Meyer's skillful negotiation.

"The rabbit jumps over the nobility" - a proverb that is said to go back to Meyer's election as mayor, explained in Kirchhofer: Truth and Poetry , 1824.

The 15 Basel guilds, in which the majority of the economically independent male Basel adults had been organized since the middle of the 14th century, took over political power in Basel after the Reformation. This sole rule of the guilds lasted essentially until 1798. The election of Jakob Meyer as mayor can therefore be seen as a political turning point in the city's history, although Meyer was himself a Catholic and took office before the Reformation. The Swiss proverb “The rabbit jumps over the nobility” is attributed to Meyer's choice.

Meyer's policy was initially successful and ensured increasing income for the city treasury. In 1517/18 the city received more than double the average income of the previous decade. Until 1521 the income continued to increase. Contemporaries like Pamphilus Gengenbach criticized in leaflets that the authorities sell their subjects abroad for dirty "secret money" like cattle.

The «pension storm»

In 1521, Basel allied itself exclusively with France. After Meyer and other councilors had declared the acceptance of private pensions to be legal in August 1521, street battles broke out in October between supporters of the French and imperial camps. Meyer, like five other members of the council, was removed from office and arrested. This purge, now known as the "pension storm", led to a redistribution of power within the various political forces. In the power vacuum that had initially developed, the council renounced episcopal rule and the guilds were able to gain the upper hand in the council. Although formally disempowered, Meyer was not without influence even after his removal from office. In the summer of 1522 he successfully sued two artisans and mercenaries for insult. Both had to withdraw their statements, declare Meyer honorable and pay a substantial fine.

Nevertheless, Meyer largely withdrew to his castle in Gundeldingen and only went to war again for France and the Pope in 1524, who were defeated by Charles V in the Battle of Pavia in 1525 . During the Reformation , Meyer finally made himself an outsider in Basel politics. The reformer Oekolampad came to the city in 1522, and the Reformation took hold in Basel until 1529. Meyer, however, stuck to his old belief and appeared as a declared opponent of the Reformation. The commission given to Holbein in 1525 to create a monumental portrait of the Virgin Mary for Meyer and to have it revised again in 1528 can also be seen in this context. After the Reformation Ordinance was passed on April 1, 1529, Meyer emigrated to Freiburg im Breisgau .

Jakob Meyer zum Hasen died in 1531.

Meyer's importance as patron and client of Hans Holbeins d. J.

Jakob Meyer had Hans Holbein portray himself and his wife Dorothea Kannengiesser as early as 1516. This makes him one of Holbein's earliest known clients by name. During Meyer's tenure, the City Council of Basel commissioned Holbein to paint the Basel Grand Council Chamber with frescoes on June 15, 1521, just four months before Meyer's fall , which Holbein completed in 1530. The Grand Council Chamber was demolished in 1817, which is why only a few fragments of the frescoes have survived, which are now in the Kunstmuseum Basel . Holbein's preliminary drawings that have also been preserved and a watercolor copy by Hieronymus Hess made shortly before the demolition show that Holbein had designed the hall with allegorical depictions on the subject of power and money. Above the mayor's seat there was a Justitia , on the sign of which it was written: "Oh you rulers, beware of the private, take care of the public".

Jakob Meyer later commissioned Hans Holbein again with a large representative painting, the so-called Darmstadt Madonna (created 1525/26, revised 1528). At that time Meyer was the leader of the Catholic party in Basel. The commission is therefore also seen as a demonstrative or even provocative act against the Reformation. However, Meyer had already expressed his religious convictions by giving the Basel Charterhouse a contribution for glazing and donating a picture on the occasion of the primacy of the Charterhouse's chronicler, Georg Carpentarius. Meyer was depicted in the large-format painting as the founder together with both wives and daughter. The other figures were previously interpreted as Meyer's deceased sons, today they are considered biblical figures, possibly from the iconography of the holy clan , the descendants of Saint Anne. The Madonna was probably used to furnish Meyer's house chapel in Gundelding Castle.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Nikolaus Meier: The crown of Maria . In: Bodo Brinkmann: The mayor, his painter and his family: Hans Holbein's Madonna in the Städel . Petersberg 2004, pp. 63-77.
  2. http://altbasel.ch/zunft/hausgenoss.html
  3. Nikolaus Meier: Maneuvering and acting strategically. In: Hans Holbein the Younger. The years in Basel . Munich 2006, pp. 58–65.
  4. ^ Paul Koelner : The guild to the key in Basel . Basel 1953, p. 287 f. Quoted from: Nikolaus Meier: The Crown of Maria. In: Brinkmann, pp. 63-77.
  5. ^ Andreas Heusler : Constitutional history of the city of Basel in the Middle Ages . Basel, 1860, pp. 67, 140.
  6. ^ Verena, widow of Johannes Bez von Durlach, State Archives Basel B 18, f. 54v. Quoted from Nikolaus Meier: The Crown of Maria . In: Brinkmann, pp. 63-77.
  7. http://www.altbasel.ch/haushof/platter.html The preserved castle was acquired by the grammar school rector Thomas Platter in 1549 from a previous owner named Ulrich Hugwald - it therefore seems rather unlikely that Meyer was also one of the previous owners.
  8. a b c d e f Valentin Groebner : Specialist for other people's money: Jakob Meyer zum Hasen, the gifts and politics . In: Brinkmann, pp. 45-53.
  9. Jutta Zander-Seidel: The mayor's new clothes . In: Brinkmann, pp. 55-61.
  10. Nikolaus Meier: Maneuvering and acting strategically. In: Hans Holbein the Younger. The years in Basel . Munich 2006, pp. 58–65.
  11. Christl Auge: On the interpretation of the Darmstadt Madonna . Frankfurt am Main 1993, p. 12.
  12. ^ A b Martin Alioth , Ulrich Barth, Dorothee Huber: Basler Stadtgeschichte . Volume 2, Basel 1981.
  13. «At the time (1515), when, after a long struggle with the nobility, the citizens of Basel finally succeeded in gaining victory over the high room and the guilds elected Jakob Meyer to be their first mayor, the above saying arose, that sets a memory for this event. " [sic!] Hare (Lepus). In: Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wander (Hrsg.): German Sprichwort Lexikon . Volume 2, Leipzig 1870, Col. 368, No. 28. See scan with the explanation of this proverb in Kirchhofer's Truth and Poetry from 1824.
  14. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung from April 1, 2006 .
  15. Liber benefactorum L . Staff monastery archive Charterhouse, f. 313b. Quoted from: Nikolaus Meier: tacting and acting strategically . In: Hans Holbein the Younger. The years in Basel . Munich 2006, pp. 58–65.
  16. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung from April 1, 2006 .


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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on March 25, 2007 in this version .