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Susanna at her Bath - Susanna and the Elders

Old Testament, Book of Daniel, XIII, 1–64

Plauen, Vincent Weber ?, before 1927
Executed at the firm of Friese und Lange (glass-painting workshop in Plauen, 1906–2006)
Labelled ‘ENTW: WEBER / AUSF: FRIESE u. LANGE’

158 × 116.5cm (including the original wooden frame)
Polychrome, deeply coloured moulded and flashed glasses, painted with black vitreous paint using various techniques, yellow silver stain, small panes created by the leading

Dokumentation

The Old Testament recounts the tale of a rich man in Babylon by the name of Joachim, who was married to a beautiful, devout woman called Susanna. The house was frequented by two highly respected, old judges, who desired Susanna. One day, they lay in wait for her in the garden as she was about to bathe, intending to force her to sleep with them, by threatening to accuse her of adultery with a young man if she should refuse them. Given the choice of living as an ‘adulteress’ or dying virtuously, Susanna remained steadfast and chose the path of virtue – and death. She was arrested and condemned to death. Shortly before judgement was due to be carried out, Daniel received divine inspiration, and questioned the two judges individually. In answer to questions concerning the place at which the deed was supposed to have taken place, they gave different answers, and were thereby exposed. Susanna was released, and the two judges killed on account of the false oath they had sworn.

Here Susanna sits, frightened to death, on the edge of the well, holding her arms and hands before her breast in a gesture of shame. The two old men look on this blond woman, whom they want to bend to their will, with greedy eyes and threatening, pointing fingers.

The colour palette and kaleidoscopically arranged geometrical forms (triangles, curves, rectangles) of this window point to Adolf Hölzel (1853–1934) and the Stuttgart School. Similarly, motivic connections may be discerned with the painting of individual artists of the Weimar Bauhaus. Vincent Weber (1902-1990)  , a pupil of Hölzel, could be suggested as the designer. Hölzel discovered the young boy ‘with happy eyes’ in Mondschau, when Weber was but ten years old, and took him under his wing from that point on. On Hölzel’s advice, Weber studied at the Weimar Bauhaus from the age of eighteen (1920–24). Weber was Hölzel’s associate until the latter’s death in 1934, the year in which Weber went to teach at the School for Applied Arts in Stettin (now Sczecin, Poland) for six years. The literature provides numerous examples of the collaboration between Hölzel and his pupil, one example of which is the completion of the windows for the town hall in Stuttgart (1928–29). Although Hölzel generally went without paint on his glass, the window of Susanna in the Bath is executed using techniques common in glass-painting in the 1920s and 1930s.

Because the ‘Friese und Lange’ workshop designation was only used until 1926–27, this window was probably produced around 1924–25, at a time when Weber was Hölzel’s master student, as well as being a member of the November Group in Berlin (with his own studio), and the Rheinland Secession in Düsseldorf.

The theme of Susanna has been tackled again and again in painting since the Renaissance, the most famous representations being those by Lorenzo Lotto (1517), Albrecht Altdorfer (1526), Jacopo Tintoretto (1555/56), Peter Paul Rubens (1607), Artemisia Gentileschi (1610), Anthonis van Dyck (c.1621), Rembrandt van Rijn (1647), and Arnold Böcklin (1888).

While the design might be attributed to Adolf Hölzel’s pupil, one might also think of the German caricaturist Andreas Paul Weber (1893-1980) .

The quality of the design and the selection of glasses point to an artist who must have been experienced in the field of glass-painting and known for this. The simplification of the artist’s signature to a commonly occurring surname (Weber) may perhaps have been done intentionally, in order to mask the artist’s identity. It is usual to include at least the initials of the forenames.

The window’s Plauen provenance points to its having been commissioned by someone who was resident there.

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