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Tapestry - Susanna and the Elders

Susanna and the Elders

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Tournai (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry woven wool and silk, with embroidery

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Tapestries, Room 94

The story of Susanna is found in the Greek Bible or Septuagint; it is placed at the beginning of the Book of Daniel. It is an account of Daniel's discovery of a malicious slander against the good woman Susanna. Tapestries with this subject were popular from the late Middle Ages onwards. The coats of arms in the borders (one is embroidered and has been added over a blank shield) are those of three patrician families of Augsburg: Gossenbrot, Rehlinger and Welser. The borders of large scrolling leafwork with birds are clearly of German character and only found in tapestries commissioned by German patrons.

Physical description

Slit tapestry of wool and silk on wool warp. Susanna is seated bathing her feet in a trough, within a garden enclosed by a high wall. Her maid is leaving the garden by an arched doorway. The two elders approach on the right. In the foreground to the left is a fountain of Gothic design supported by four crouching lions. On the edge of the trough the word 'Susenne' is inscribed. The scene is enclosed within a frame-work formed by two variegated marble columns, supporting a flattened arch edged with cresting. There is a broad border of leafwork with birds on a dark blue ground. Shields of arms are hung by ribbons to the stems at each corner of the border. One of the coat of arms is embroidered and has been added over a blank shield.

Place of Origin

Tournai (probably, made)


ca. 1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tapestry woven wool and silk, with embroidery

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed on the edge of the trough.


Height: 402 cm, Width: 336 cm

Object history note

The coats of arms are those of three patrician families of Augsburg. There were several marriage alliances in the 15th and 16th centuries between the three families whose arms are shown: Gossenbrot, Rehlinger and Welser. The juxtaposition of the shields suggests the exemplification, at the top of the tapestry, of the marriage of Sigmund Gossenbrot with Anne Rehlinger (1476) and of those beneath of Lucas Welser with Ursula Gossenbrot (after 1500).
No doubt of the German character of the unusual border. They are remarkable because of their great width and the character of the large leaf-scroll with birds, also the size and prominence of the coat of arms.

Historical context note

Bathing of the feet before a meal was a custom among German patricians and that trough and fountain was a common feature in 15th century patrician gardens.
show widespread tradition of German design in late Gothic tapestries and embroidered textiles.

Descriptive line

Wool and silk tapestry weave showing Susanna and the Elders.

Labels and date

The two wicked Elders here wait for Susanna's maid to leave her before accosting Susanna. They gave her a choice of committing adultery with them in secret or being accused by them of the sin she had not committed. Virtue eventually triumphed: Susanna was vindicated and the Elders were executed.

In the wide border are the arms of Gossenbrot, Rehliongen and Welser, the latter added in embroidery. Sigmund Gossenbrot of Augsburg in 1476 married Anna Rehlingen. This tapestry, made for them, then passed to their daughter, Ursula, who maried Lucas Welser before 1515.

FLEMISH; circa 1500
Museum number 546-1872 [before 2003]

Production Note

German commissioned.


Wool; Silk thread


Tapestry weave; Embroidery


Tapestry; Textiles; Images Online


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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