Museum Ulm
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Decedents of the Ulm Cathedral preacher Elias Veiel donate artworks

Since her childhood, US-American Susan Atkinson remembers a mysterious white box at the top of her wardrobe. It was marked with instructions to pass the contents from generation to generation. These contents came from her famous ancestor, the theologian Elias Veiel (1635-1706) from Ulm. Susan Atkinson, who now lives in Costa Rica, is an eleventh-generation descendant of Veiel.

Elias Veiel was already known far beyond Ulm during his lifetime because of his influential theological writings. He held important public offices in his home town: Preacher, superintendent, theology teacher and later headmaster at the Gymnasium. Veiel’s importance is attested to by an unusually large number of surviving works of art featuring his portrait, most of which were created during his lifetime.

The descendants of Elias Veiel emigrated to the USA in the 19th century and brought with them the objects that Susan Atkinson knows from the box in her wardrobe: A sealed letter of arms from 1664, which allowed the theologian and his descendants to bear a coat of arms with a swan motif, a small box with carved ivory reliefs showing the portrait of Elias Veiel and symbols of the Evangelists, Moses, Christ and the Prophet Elijah, as well as two other miniatures and a seal belonging to Maria Agatha Ofterdinger and Johann Matthäus Veiel (1751-1814), Elias Veiel’s great-grandson.

Susan Atkinson’s mother Margaret Lee began extensive research into the family history in the 1980s, starting with the translation of the armorial letter. Atkinson visited Ulm as early as 1988 at her mother’s request to learn more about her ancestor Elias Veiel. Before her death, Margaret Lee wanted the artworks to be returned to Ulm and made accessible to the public. Susan Atkinson now presented them to the museum, where they complement several portraits from the Veiel family, including the large portraits by Joseph Arnold, which were already acquired by Veiel descendants from Freiburg in 1952.


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