Paradoxplace Portraits

Jacob Fugger ("The Rich") of Augsburg

(1459 - 1525)

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Portrait by an unknown artist

Painted in 1518 by Albrecht Durer

(1471 - 1528) of whom Fugger was a patron.


The Fugger family were merchants in Augsburg, the capital of the powerful medieval Duchy of Swabia, in the south west of modern Germany (Frederick II had been King there once).  Born almost 100 years after the founders of the Medici Bank, Jacob Fugger built a bank far bigger and richer than Giovanni and Cosimo could have imagined in their wildest dreams (though posterity remembers the name Medici rather than Fugger). 


Young Jacob understood that "sovereign risk" was high risk unless a) you lent big to the winning sovereigns (in his case the Habsburg Emperors Maximillian I and his grandson Charles V)  b) you only lent against over adequate tangible irrevocable collateral (in his case Habsburg monopoly silver mines in the Tirol, gold mines in Silesia, and copper mines in Hungary - all of which effectively gave him ownership of currency production as well).  He could thus sleep soundly after lending Charles 534,000 florins in 1519 to bribe the Princes and Archbishops who elected the Holy Roman Emperor.  He was known by the unmemorable functional nickname of "Jacob Fugger The Rich," died without children and nowadays very few people outside Augsburg have heard of him.


Left:  J Fugger at work with his Chief Treasurer, Matthew Schwartz, as portrayed in the costume book of Matthew Schwartz c1518.


At its height, the Fugger bank was more than ten times the size of the earlier Medici Bank, but it left no lasting mark on history except in the amenities of its home town of Augsburg.



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