07 January, 2013

UK paintings database and old spinning wheels, part one

Old paintings show us how people used to live, and in this case, how they spun yarn and treated their equipment.  The UK made available online a database of its public paintings.  Here are some to help you celebrate Distaff day.  My favourites are first.  I have posted details about as many paintings as I could in one sitting but there are more left.

Thomas Fawcett Hutton's "Kitchen in Wales" shows a great wheel

Francis Wheatley (style of), "A Woman Spinning in a Farmyard Setting" shows a spinning wheel with a drive wheel that is quite small, and a tall pole which is probably an undressed distaff.  The woman's foot is not actually on the treadle, she is sitting behind the wheel holding on her lap what looks like a bundle of line flax in strands about two or three feet long.  She is holding the fibre in a manner similar to the way strands of line flax are supposed to be arranged before putting them on a distaff.

Thomas Stuart Smith's "A Welsh Interior, Spinning," shows a very large great wheel in use
"Woman Spinning" shows another spindle wheel but this one has no legs, has a crank at the axle to turn the wheel, and a peculiar rim on the wheel which might be in two hoops connected by cross pieces.  Good detail on the spindle assembly: you can see the wound cop, the leather bearings, and the grooves for the drive band.  The woman's long draw technique looks accurate.

Reinier Craeyvanger's "Cottage Interior" shows a Saxony spinning wheel.  In a back room, a blacksmith strikes iron on an anvil.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo's "An Old Woman Holding a Distaff and Spindle"

Thomas Uwin's "Neopolitan Peasants" shows a spindle and distaff, though unfortunately not in use

Frederick Daniel Hardy's "A Prayer for Those at Sea" shows a spinning wheel with distaff
and "Preparing for Dinner" shows a spinning wheel in the background

Quiringh van Brekelenkam's "Domestic Dutch Interior" shows a spinning wheel with a rim like a great wheel
"Interior with Old Man and Old Woman Spinning" shows a spinning wheel in use with flax on a distaff which might be a bird cage distaff.  The base of the wheel looks like box, something like those decorations shaped like spinning wheels that hold potted plants.  The man is not spinning like the squinting modifier of a title suggests he is.

Hendrik Martensz. Sorg's "Interior with Young Woman Washing Pots" shows most of a spinning wheel

William Allan's "The Ballad of Old Robin Gray" shows a spinning wheel with a distaff whose fibre is bound with a pink ribbon.  Distaff ribbon colour at one time denoted marital status.  Marital status is the theme of this particular ballad where a young woman is pressured to marry an older man instead of her sweetheart.  I can't remember which colour ribbon means what marital status and so cannot tell if the ribbon is symbolic.

John Ballantyne's "Thomas Faed at His Easel in His Studio" shows a castle-style spinning wheel among the props, rendered without the level of detail in the painting attributed to Faed; for example Ballantyne leaves out the flyer and bobbin.

Thomas Faed (attributed), "The Spinning Wheel" shows a woman sitting at a castle wheel with a flax distaff dressed and bound with pink ribbon.  A girl interrupts her and a boy pokes his head out from under a table cloth right by the wheel.

Hendrik Ringeling's "Woman and Child" shows a castle wheel with two upright posts holding the flyer instead of the usual one

Caspar Netscher's "A Lady at a Spinning Wheel" partially shows a spinning wheel with an elaborately turned design and what is probably a distaff dressed with flax and bound with ribbon

Francis Henry Newberry's "A Spinning or Rope-walk" shows women walking backward spinning rope on multiple heads on a wheel turned by a child.  If memory serves, a copy of this is an illustration in Patricia Baines' Spinning Wheels, Spinners, and Spinning.  Most of the paintings show handspinners in a domestic setting but Newberry shows them in a community or business setting.
"A Weaving Shop" shows a bobbin winder, a swift, and horizontal two-harness treadle looms in use.  The bobbin winder is sitting down and turning the wheel by hand.  At first glance it looks like she is spinning.

"Interior Scene, Spinning Wool" shows a similar setup as the rope-walk, only for wool

Margaret Sarah Carpenter's "An Old Woman Spinning" shows part of a wheel, with a bobbin almost full of a shiny fine gold thread, probably flax.  Quite a thick drive band on the wheel, and the band only goes around the bobbin, there is no flyer at all.  Also, the thread comes straight off the bobbin, not through a spindle and out the far side of the support.  The right arm is raised to the wheel suggesting she is turning the wheel instead of treadling.  I would say that this is bobbin winding not spinning yarn except that the bobbin is too large to fit any weaving shuttle I know.

Michael Sweerts' "An Old Woman Spinning" shows a spindle and distaff in use

Thomas McEwan's "At the Spinning Wheel" shows a spinning wheel with unusual turning on a leg, what could be a strangely large bobbin, and what could be a very thick rim on the wheel
"Interior: The Spinning Wheel" shows a similar wheel.  You can see the fibre held in the hand more distinctly in this painting; the preparation looks like a rolag.  The woman is spinning while minding an infant, her eyes are not on her work.

Francis Hayman's "Girl at a Spinning Wheel" shows flax being spun from a distaff on a dainty wheel

Veitch's "Girl at a Spinning Wheel" which was painted only a couple of decades ago, unlike most in the database, shows a castle wheel in use with a forked distaff.

a French school "Interior, a Peasant Woman Spinning, her Daughter Making Lace and Conversing with a Young Man" shows a wheel turned by the right hand with a handle, possibly a crank handle on the axle, and a distaff loaded with flax and held under the left arm.  The distaff seems to have a cross piece, maybe to make it easier to hold in place.

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