Susanna and the Elders thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Tapestries, Room 94

Susanna and the Elders

Tapestry
ca. 1500 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Tapestry woven wool and silk, with embroidery
Brief Description
Wool and silk tapestry weave showing Susanna and the Elders.
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 402cm
  • Width: 336cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'Susenne' (Inscribed on the edge of the trough.)
Gallery Label
SUSANNA AND THE ELDERS 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)
Object history
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
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.
Production
German commissioned.
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Collection
Accession Number
546-1872

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record createdAugust 18, 2005
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