Uta von Ballenstedt

Uta of Ballenstedt
Margravine of Meissen

Naumburg Cathedral portrait
Spouse(s) Eckard II, Margrave of Meissen


Noble family House of Ascania
Father Adalbert of Ballenstedt (?)
Mother Hidda (?)
Born c.1000
Ballenstedt, Saxony
Died 23 October before 1046

Uta von Ballenstedt (c.1000 — 23 October before 1046), a member of the House of Ascania, was Margravine of Meissen from 1038 until 1046, the wife of Margrave Eckard II. She is also called Uta of Naumburg as the subject of a famous donor portrait by the Naumburg Master.


Little is kown of Uta's descent. She probably was the sister of the Saxon count Esico of Ballenstedt, who became the progenitor of the Ascanian dynasty. One Count Adalbert of Ballenstedt and Hidda, a daughter of the Lusatian margrave Odo I (965-993), are commonly reckoned as their parents, however, these names are not recorded in contemporary sources.

According to 13th century Naumburg chronicles, Uta's father about 1026 married her off to Eckard II, the younger brother of Margrave Herman I of Meissen—presumably for political reasons in order to further promote the rise of the Ascanian dynasty. Eckard, a loyal supporter of the Salian king Henry III, succeeded his brother-in-law Theoderic II as Margrave of Lusatia and in 1038 also assumed the rule in Meissen upon the death of his elder brother. However, his marriage with Uta remained without issue, resulting in the extinction of the Ekkeharding dynasty.

When Uta died, her husband donated large parts of her dowry to the convent of St. Cyriakus, Gernrode in Uta's home country, where her sister Hacheza had been appointed abbess by King Henry III in 1043. The remaining estates fell to Empress Agnes of Poitou.


Uta was among the donators of Naumburg Cathedral, therefore a painted statue was erected in her honour in the 13th century. Similar to the Bamberg Horseman, the individual depiction, part of a semicircle of twelve donor portraits, is today generally considered a masterpiece of Gothic art.

From the early 20th century onwards, the idealised picture of Uta with the distinctive collar upturned was published in numerous art history and travel guides, becoming an icon of the "genuine" German character and culture — often contrasted with the Naumburg statue of Margravine Regelinda as the stereotypical "smiling Polish woman". Her portrait was appropriated by the Nazi regime as a counter-image to so-called "degenerate art"; it appeared as an "Aryan" role model in Fritz Hippler's film The Eternal Jew and as a SS cult object in World War II propaganda[1]

The statue possibly inspired the character of the Evil Queen in Disney's 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.[2] When Umberto Eco was asked with which women from European art he would most like to spend the evening, he replied: "In first place, ahead of all others, with Uta von Naumburg."[2]


  1. Ullrich, Wolfgang: Naumburger Dom: Uta, das Ewige Deutschland, Zeit Online, 23 February 2011
  2. 1 2 Heinrich, Michael. Uta von Naumburg: Germanys First Topmodel 5 November 2011. news.de
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