Manuel, Niclaus

Manuel, Niclaus, or NICOLAS, sometimes called DEUTSCH, one of the most prominent characters in the ecclesiastical history of Switzerland, in the age just preceding the Reformation, was born at Bern in 1484, His real name is conjectured by his biographer, Dr. Gruneisen, to have been Alleman, but, as he was illegitimate, it was, for family reasons, changed anagrammatically into that of Manuel. It is further conjectured that he was brought up by his maternal grandfather, Thüring Frickart. He was an artist by profession, but he excelled also as a poet and author. He studied the art of painting at Colmar, under the successors of the celebrated Martin Schon, until the fame of Titian attracted him to Venice, where, about 1511, he became one of his pupils: he is the Emanuello Tedesco of Ridolfi and other Italian writers. He is said to have assisted Holbein, in 1515 in his "Dance of Death;" but this is very improbable, as he was himself employed at that time in painting the same subject in the cloister of the Dominican convent at Bern. It was executed in fresco or distemper. The picture consisted of forty-six subjects, forty-one of which were the actual Todtentanz; it has long since been destroyed, but the compositions are preserved in prints and copies: the wall on which it was painted was pulled down in 1660. Manuel was an active reformer, and many of these designs are reflections upon the abuses of the Roman Church. He also ornamented his own house with a large fresco, representing Solomon worshipping idols. But of these and several other of his works nothing now remains, except some small watercolor copies preserved in the library at Basle. However, either because his pencil did not bring him sufficient for the maintenance of his family, or from his political ardor, he was induced to engage in military and public affairs. He served, as quartermaster or commissary, among the Swiss allies who assisted Francis I in his expedition against Milan, 1522, and was present both at the storming of Novara and the battle of Bicocca. In the following year he was chosen lanedvogt of Erlach, and from the year 1526 distinguished himself by his zeal in the cause of the Reformation. From this period he was entirely devoted to that cause, and to his various public employments. He died in 1530, when only forty-six years of age. As a writer he began to distinguish himself in 1509, by various popular poems and songs in the Swiss dialect, full of humor and sharp satire. He is said by some to be the author of a song, which originated in the early part of the 16th century, deriding the belief in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. But though this be doubtful, it is certain that Manuel wielded his pen in support of the Reformation by attacking the gross abuses of the clergy and the licentiousness of monastics. His Facstnachtsspiele, or "Dramatic Moralities and Mysteries," which he began to compose about 1522, are marked by the same qualities as his polemical pieces. See Dr. Grüneisen, Nicolas Manuel, Leben und Werke eines Malers, Dichters, Kriegers, Staatsmannes, und Reformuators (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1837); Nagler, Neues Allgemeines Ksilstler-Lexikon, s.v.; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 9:4 sq.; English Cyclop. s.v.

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