Die Häute der 'Anderen'. Indianerkostüme am Württembergischen Hof


  • Maike Christadler




Maike Christadler

Indigenous skins. Indian Costumes at the Court of Württemberg

During the carnival season of 1599, the Duke of Württemberg invited his princely subjects to a festivity that required their active participation. He himself showed up as a personification of “America”, and his courtiers were dressed as Indians, wearing animal-skin costumes that enveloped their entire bodies, representing indigenous nakedness. The invited guests were assigned the roles of the emperors of Antiquity or, in one case, that of an admirer of the beauty and social status of “America”. The spectacle is documented in a colored miniature (today in the art collection of Weimar), which shows that the Indian costumes were modeled precisely on the engravings of de Bry’s “America” series, which commenced publication in the early 1590s. By appropriating the skins of the “savage” Indians, the Duke and courtiers of Württemberg conflated the sexual appeal of the exotic “other” with the magic protection against the threatening “other” that is implicit in the masquerade. In addition, the Duke demonstrated that he was participating in the important new discourse of ethnography, symbolically conferred the American riches to himself, and – by cross-dressing as a female – placed his guests and political partners in a position in which, according to European standards of courtship, they would be obliged to honor him.