Ständebaum or Tree of Social Classes (1532)


Early Modern society was a picture of inequality, with its members hierarchically divided into various ranks—nobility, the clergy, the urban patriciate and bourgeoisie, and an urban and a rural middle and lower class. In addition, there were also minorities and marginalized groups, such as the Jewish population. A large part of the population, the so-called “common man” or “common woman” (the third estate), had no say whatsoever in matters of governance. This Ständebaum (literally: tree of social classes) was taken from a 1532 German-language edition of a Latin work by Renaissance humanist Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch). It depicted and legitimized this social order along, with its inherent inequality. It is worth noting, however, that the reality of social stratification proved even more complex than this Ständebaum suggests.


Source: Franciscus Petrarcha, Von der Artzney bayder Glück, des guten und widerwertigen: unnd weß sich ain yeder inn Gelück und Unglück halten sol. Auß dem Lateinischen in das Teütsch gezogen [von Peter Stachel und Georg Spalatin]. Augspurg: Steyner, 1532, p. XVII.  Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek -- 2 Phil 57. Available online at:

Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek

Gabriele Mentges, “Mode, Städte und Nationen: Die Trachtenbücher der Renaissance,” in Jutta Zander-Seidel, ed., In Mode. Kleider und Bilder aus Renaissance und Frühbarock. Ausstellung im Germanischen Nationalmuseum. Nürnberg, 2015, pp. 144–51.

Ulinka Rublack, Dressing Up. Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Claudia Ulbrich and Richard Wittmann, eds., Fashioning the Self in Transcultural Settings: The Uses and Significance of Dress in Self-Narratives. (Istanbuler Studien und Texte 17) Würzburg, 2015.

Ständebaum or Tree of Social Classes (1532), published in: German History Intersections, <> [November 29, 2023].