Susanna im Bade (Susanna in the Bath) painted in 1526 by Albrecht Altdorfer, b.1480 - d.1538
Recently RK was in Munich, Germany and we took the opportunity to revisit the Alte Pinakotek where the Altdorfer painting, Susanna im Bade, resides.
Detail of the weaving
Astute readers, particularly those interested in Anatolian Kelim, will remember mention of this painting in Part VII of our book length Anatolian Kelim Opus, which can be see at this URK :
This painting is the only evidence yet discovered to place an Anatolian Kelim in the 16th century.
And while that evidence is somewhat circumstantial it is nonetheless worth examining.
In the Anatolian Opus we did just that but our photos shown above were made with a low resolution digital camera.
At that time, 2009, we also presented other photos made from a postcard we purchased at the museum. Neither of which were detailed enough to allow the new findings published below to be discovered.
This time we were better equipped with a 16 megapixil camera that enabled far better ones, which appear below with additional commentary, to be made.
The first and most salient piece of new evidence is the discovery of the S icon, which is rarely if ever seen outside the confines of Turkic weaving cultures (Anatolian and Turkmen).
Detail Susanna im Bad with red arrow pointing to the S icon.
In our Tent Band Tent Bag publication we traced the archaeological root of this icon back to the late Bronze Age, where it appears on a rare small group of clay female effigy/idols.
There it can be plainly seen on both sides of their heads, as a knotted or plaited hairstyle.
We are still on record stating this, and not a dragon or snake, is this icons probable source.
Perhaps we will someday find an even older S icon, but for now these statuettes remain the earliest reference.
We had missed this important detail in our previous examination of the painting and the photos.
Another ubiquitous icon found in the Turik iconographic library, as well as other Near Eastern weaving cultures, is a sequence of reciprocal hooks found on border stripes better known as the running dog.
Now in our re-examination and re-photographing of Altdorfers painting this small detail was also noticed.
Detail red and white reciprocal hook, or running-dog, border
It likewise is evidence linking the weaving in the painting to an Anatolian tradition.
The next photo provides a very clear picture of several of the other stripes and, while their iconography is not as directly traceable to Anatolia weaving culture, it surely is reminiscent.
But the keystone proving this weaving is a kelim can be seen in the enlarged detail below, with black arrows marked 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The arrows 1, 3 and 4 point to the unique stepped or terraced outline all motifs on slit-tapestry, aka kelim, always display. This is the result of technical aspects of the slit-tapestry technique.
And Altdorfers artist rendering of them is clearly visible. Had they not been present it is sure he would have represented the design outlines with a solid, and not a broken dot - dot, line.
If there is any doubt this is the case, arrow 2 points to an even more unmistakable terraced design, a stepped-outlined half polygon, seen on countless Anatolian Kelim.
This now appears to be the final proof the weaving is a slit-tapestry, aka kelim, and not a pile weaving or some other flat-weave like a jijim or soumak, as none of these techniques produce terraced-outlined patterns.
Unquestionably the weaving in this painting presents a fascinating riddle, and while the evidence above points quite convincingly to it being a kelim, and for RK is beyond a shadow of doubt, it still is not proof positive.