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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3c8e17f881dba2917b93bcdbb016c9f6This 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. I believe this is in Bologna.

 

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.

 

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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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Historic Knits: Medieval Undershirt

The folks from Suite101.com have done some research into antique/vintage knitting, and have found some very interesting patterns for some very interesting garments.

Based on a garment from the Museum of the City of London, Lois McCarthy has devised a knitting pattern for a medieval undershirt. This one is designed for a men’s size 40, and uses fingering weight yarns on size 4 needles.

Update: This pattern is no longer available at Suite 101. Disappointing, I know.

pattern