Georg Gumpelzhaimer: Gymnasma de exercitiis academicorum; German, 1650

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Students at German universities were predominantly young noblemen. As such, they brought aristocratic leisure activities with them to academia.

“Georgii Gumpelzhaimer’s Gymnasma de exercitiis academicorum” — the exercises of the academics. This rare German copper (full bibliographical detail can be found here) depicts the athletic games and pastimes of German students after the Thirty Years War… including crossbow shooting, hunting, dancing, running, swimming, horsemanship, gambling… and of course fencing.

 

Fencers

Detail: Fencers

This is one of the earliest depictions of German fencers using the left hand as an active means of defense. (This was to become a hallmark of the Kreusslerian school of thrust fencing, which was taught well into the first decades of the 20th century before being replaced by the Italian and French methods.)

Both fencers are using foils with pronounced buffer points… and of course fencing masks had not yet come into fashion.

The jousting knights in the middle ground may be simply symbolic, linking the young noblemen who wentto university and had the money and leisure for athletic diversions, to their hardier forebears.

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