Monday, September 5, 2011

Taking Apart Images - Part 4 - The Men's Bath by Albrecht Durer

The Men's Bath (circa 1496-97) by Albrecht Durer is the study for this piece.  As similar as this might be to Part 2 of my Taking Apart Images series, there is a variance.  I find the head gear to be rather unique.  My assumption is that this type of head wear was likely worn only in the public baths, but, we know where assumptions can lead us sometimes.  Taking a passage from's article "Three Men in a Tub?: Medieval Bathing":
"Apparently in some cases bath-taking was a normal social occasion, with food and wine served and the best jewelry and hats being worn in the community tub."
I don't know if the hats displayed in Durer's drawing are necessarily their best, but that is up to the taste of the observer and a bit more research.  As as side note, I also found an rather comprehensive article on bathing entitled A Short History of Bathing before 1601: Washing, Baths, and Hygeine in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, with sidelights on other custom by Jennifer A. Heise.  Anyway, onto the image...

Details are as follows:

Die leinene Unterhose / Braies - Identical to Durer's Self Portrait.

Sidenote: These 'linen pants' were discovered at Castle Lengberg in Nikolsdorf, Tirol, Austria, which was at one time part of the Holy Roman Empire, and are supposedly dated by Beatrix Nutz to about 1480. [Harpfe - A Journal of Cultural Studies, Dec 2010, Pg 31]


The first and third example appear to be woven, perhaps of a material for either keeping the head dry or keeping it warm since the baths were not enclosed.  This really isn't my area of expertise, therefore, my only assumption is wool.  The second example appears to be a basic fabric, likely linen, worn similar to the female steuchlein, only in reverse.  After a bit of thinking, another option for the first and third hats came to mind.  Could this be nålebinding (or naalbinding / naalebinding)?  It would be a reasonable assumption concerning the construction.  What I've found thus far is a called the mammen stitch.

Non-clothing related - I thought the cups/mugs in this drawing were worth mentioning.

And here we have a mug with a covered lid, or Steinzeug-krug as they are commonly referred to, stein for short.  You can see the rounded hinge just above the man's nose.  During this period, many mugs had hinged lids.  Some say they were due to the various infestations of flies that progressed over the Germanic areas during this point in history.

Musical Instruments - Recorder

Rebec - a bowed string musical instrument.  In its most common form, it has a narrow boat-shaped body and three strings and is played on the arm or under the chin, like a violin.  I found a fabulous site all about the rebec at The Rebec Project.  I hope I am not doing a disservice to the instrument by laying claim to it in this woodcut if this is, in fact, not a rebec.

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