Statue of Uta von Ballenstedt – Naumburg, Germany - Atlas Obscura

Statue of Uta von Ballenstedt

Naumberg Cathedral
Naumburg, Germany

Is this statue at Naumberg Cathedral the fairest of them all? 

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Uta von Ballenstedt was the wife of Margrave Eckard II of Meissen, member of the German dynasty known as the House of Ascania. Their marriage created no heir, and any chance of furthering their line ended with Eckard’s death in 1046, followed shortly thereafter by Uta’s.

Uta’s entire estate was donated to the construction of Naumburg Cathedral. Later, in the 13th century, the anonymous Naumburg Meister created a dozen donor figures for the cathedral, including representations of Eckard II and Uta. These life-size statues are relatively rare in the annals of art history, as they depict neither king nor emperor, and are considered masterpieces of Gothic art.

In the 20th century, the statue of Uta had become an icon of German culture, and was subsequently degraded by the Nazi regime by being held up as an “Aryan role model,” used in their propaganda campaigns.

On a more positive (and universally familiar) note, the sculpture is said to be among the inspirations behind the Evil Queen in the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Indeed, some art connoisseurs consider Uta von Ballenstedt to be an exceptional beauty, even placing her on the same level as Queen Nefertiti and Botticelli’s Venus. She attracts many visitors to Naumburg Cathedral to this day.