Women's Bodies, Women's Property German Customary Law Books Illustrated in the Fourteenth Century

Group IV: Limitations on inheritance rights of unmarried daughters

Landrecht I, 5, 2

Dresden 9v
Dresden 5v
Wolfenbuttel 11v

see below for detailed page sections

The law states that an unmarried daughter living in the house of her parents does not share her [presumably deceased] mother's dowry with a married daughter. But she must share with her married sister any other inheritance. This is emphatically shown in picture at the foot of the verso, where the unwed daughter with loose hair is sharing an elaborate Doppelbecher (double-covered jar), a metonymy for the inheritance.

She stands between her married sister and her gerade, shears (a metonymy for the gerade), a brush, a chest. We see her as a partial and fleeting owner, immediately having to relinquish some of her inheritance. This limiting action follows on equivocations about the ability of the handicapped to inherit: The feeble-minded and dwarves, and even cripples, could not acquire a fief by inheritance. The fact that the heirs must take them into their care is stated but not shown; we see only a cripple and a leper with his bell and begging bowl. Looking at these deviants (registers 2 and 3) on the same page as the unmarried daughter, some kind of affinity is suggested. Layered between them are the sons who have unequivocal rights of inheritance from their father (registers 4 and 5).