How did Uta Hagen get her name?

Actress and acting teacher Uta Hagen (1919-2004)
Uta Hagen

Tony-award winning actress and drama instructor Uta (pronounced OO-ta) Hagen was born to parents Oskar and Thyra Hagen of Göttingen, Germany, in June of 1919.

Uta’s father Oskar, an art historian, named her after the statue of Uta von Ballenstedt at Naumburg Cathedral.

The statue is one of a dozen life-size sculptures that depict individuals who helped establish the church during the 11th century. These “donor figures,” created during the 13th century, have since become well-known examples of early Gothic sculpture in Germany. The statue of Uta von Ballenstedt is thought to have influenced the Walt Disney animators who created the Evil Queen in Snow White, in fact.

Uta von Ballenstedt statue
Uta von Ballenstedt statue

In 1924, Uta Hagen’s family — which included an older brother named Holger — emigrated to the U.S and settled in Madison, Wisconsin. The following year, Oskar Hagen founded the University of Wisconsin’s Art History department.

The feminine name Uta is related to the masculine name Otto, which was originally a short form of Germanic compound names containing the element od/ot, meaning “prosperity, wealth.”


Images: Adapted from Robeson Hagen Othello (public domain); adapted from Naumburger Dom 240 by Thomas Hummel under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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