Oldest Western Knitting Images


 

Most representations of knitting in art have been produced from the 18th century on. The earliest ones are knitting Madonnas.  The Holy Family, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, c. 1345, shows Mary knitting, but what she might be making is not clear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a detail from a polyptich by Tommaso da Modena, whose dates are 1325-1375). Mary is knitting something in the round using four needles.

 

 

The next painting, by Meister Bertram von Minden, Germany, was done c. 1400-1410, in the right wing of the Buxtehude Altarpiece.  Titled “The Madonna Knitting Christ’s Seamless Garment”,  it represents the Virgin Mary making a tunic in the round, using 4 needles. The tradition of the seamless garment describes a scene at the crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers cast lots to win possession of it, not wishing to tear up such a valuable item of clothing. Two churches, the cathedral at Trier and the parish church of Argenteuil, claim to have possession of the actual garment. Trier claims that it was brought to them by the Empress Saint Helena, who also is supposed to have found the True Cross. The French believe that theirs was brought there by Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor. Both claims date from the 1100’s. Most probably, Christ’s clothing was woven, not knitted. But it’s a lovely painting and a lovely thought.

The Madonna appears to be knitting a sock in this altarpiece painted by Nicolás and Martín Zahortiga, c. 1460 for the Museo de la Colegiata de Borja in Spain.

Does anyone know what the other two women are working on?

 

 

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About katknit

Took early retirement (yay!) and now have more time to pursue my favorite things.
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6 Responses to Oldest Western Knitting Images

  1. MrPuffy says:

    Very interesting.

  2. betsy says:

    that is interesting! not to mention really weird for some reason i really can’t pinpoint…

  3. Barbara Zimbardo says:

    As a knitter, I’m interested in the above painting of the Virgin knitting the seamless garment. I’m new to computers. How can I get a photocopy of the painting in a larger format to frame and hang. Thank you, Barbara Z.

    • R Kale says:

      Allposters.com sells posters of this painting-put the name “Madonna knitting a one piece garment for the Christ.” It will come up

  4. Aunt Ruth says:

    I believe the two women are using a lucet to make twisted cord. Woman on right is holding the tool, woman on left is assisting.

  5. elizabeth says:

    The 2 ladies in the bottom picture are fingerloop braiding. The one in the left is doing the braiding and the one on the right is pushing back on the braid to tighten the tension.

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