08 January, 2013

UK paintings database and old spinning wheels, part two

Continuing from my last post, instances of fibre arts in the UK's new database of public paintings.  More tomorrow.

Thomas Duncan (attributed), "The Spinning Wheel" shows a woman with her hands in her lap at rest near a spinning wheel with distaff dressed and bound with red ribbon.

Nicholas Condy's "Interior, Girl Spinning," shows a spinning wheel of chunky design

Charles Towne (attributed), "Italianate Landscape with Peasant Woman Spinning" shows a small figure holding a long distaff at her left side and minding a mixed flock

Eric Austwick's "Mona Douglas (1898-1987) Spinning" shows a woman spinning, holding her hands on the fibre quite far apart.  The distance between the maidens of the wheel is also wide.  This the first portrait of a specific person I've come across in the database, and either she or the painter must have been from the Isle of Man because the painting is held in the Manx National Heritage collection.  The museum is located incidentally in a place called Douglas.  The painting entered the collection the year after Douglas' death.

Henry John Dobson's "Old Lady Spinning" shows a woman spinning a fine thread with her hands wide apart.  She wears old-fashioned clothing and granny glasses and she stoops with age as do many handspinners shown in the paintings in the database, enough to call the depiction a theme or cliche.  The window alcove is the same as the painter's "Burn's Grace," so was probably painted in the same place.

unknown, "Old Woman at a Spinning Wheel" shows a dynamic scene of a young girl trying to climb on the lap of an old woman, whose hands are pulling a strand of flax off a dressed distaff.  A cat stalks a bobbin on the floor.  A bottle of gold liquid dangles on a string from the wheel's adjustment knob, possibly for wetting the flax though I doubt it since more commonly flax spinners use cups.  The bottle could be for oiling the wheel's parts.  There are more spokes than usual on the wheel and the turning on the legs is quite bulbous.  The painting is in a collection in Ulster, a place identified with flax production.

unknown, "Portrait of an Old Lady Spinning" shows a wheel in use with what might be tow flax arranged on a distaff.  The distaff is cone-shaped with wooden spokes radiating out from the top and set into a wooden ring at the base of the cone.

Mortimer L. Menpes' "Spinning Ajmere" shows a wheel that looks Eastern and from the name it might be a scene from India.  A quick Internet search on the painter shows he travelled in India.  No date is given for the painting but the museum acquired it in 1929.

James Duff's "Spinning and Weaving" shows hand methods of spinning and weaving on the left juxtaposed with mechanized methods on the right.  The painting's date is recent.

William Collins' "Spinning Girl of Sorrento" shows a distaff held in the left hand and a spindle held in the hand against the right thigh.  It is not clear whether the spindle is in use or at rest.  I trust there is a seat under the woman and she is not standing on one leg.  It is difficult to see the spindle's shape.

Karel Frans Philippeau's "Spinning: Italian Scene" shows a woman holding a distaff in her left hand and reaching down toward a stick in a child's hand.  There is a filament running from her hand to the top of the stick.  The description calls the stick a spinning reel.  The fibre on the distaff looks like line flax.

Cogswell's "Still Life Interior with Spinning Wheel" shows a very odd, rudimentary spinning wheel with a board taking the place of the front leg, mother of all, and maidens.  The wheel obscures whatever spindle or flyer and bobbin should be there.  The spokes and legs have no turning details at all, unlike the pieces of furniture in the room which are elaborate.

unknown, "The Fortune Teller (A Family Group at a Spinning Wheel)" shows a castle wheel, very small, with a cup to hold water to smooth flax.  Line flax and the undressed distaff are on the handspinner's lap.  She sits in a chair with a somewhat narrow back, possibly to facilitate arm movements during spinning.

Leon Bakst's "The Sleeping Beauty: The Princess Pricks Her Finger on a Spinning Wheel" shows enough of the scene to convey it but not enough to tell exactly what part the princess injures herself with.  The old woman appears to be adjusting the drive band.  The wheel is a castle wheel, I think.  The painting's style is interesting, it was done about a hundred years ago and is refreshing after so many weighty and dark paintings.  Also, there's a cat playing with an enormous ball of yarn.

Hugh Cameron's "The Spinning Lesson" shows an old woman spinning flax from a distaff on a wheel with long legs and a lot of turned detail in the wood.  A girl watches.  The room is in deep gloom with light from one window, which could help the woman see the fibre and spin a fine yarn.

Samuel Edmonston's "The Spinning Lesson" shows a young woman spinning from a distaff on a wheel just outside the door.  A girl and an old woman watch.

John Phillip, "The Spinning Wheel" shows a woman holding fibre, possibly flax, in her lap.  A glossy spinning wheel sits in position in front of her; only the edge of the spinning wheel with the flyer is shown.

Chinese school, "Two Women Spinning" shows a woman rolling out something long and white.  Another woman sits on a very low stool and spins with a delicate Asian-style wheel, spinning longdraw off the tip of the spindle.  Here and elsewhere fibre preparation and spinning yarn are considered one process.  The women sit in a building with one side open to the courtyard.

Beatrice Offor (attributed), "Woman at Spinning Wheel" shows a woman spinning on a wheel.  There is a roughly-dressed distaff but the woman is drawing out the fibre in the opposite direction.  The wheel is quite small for the frame and the frame is slanted at a steep angle.

unknown, "Woman at a Spinning Wheel" shows a woman outside sitting in front of a castle wheel.  She is wearing wooden clogs and one clog is on the treadle, which I find unusual since I see most handspinners go in sock feet or slippers.  She is holding a dressed distaff bound in blue ribbon.

Julien Gustave Gagliardini's "Woman at Spinning Wheel" shows a woman sitting outside in front of what I take to be a swift, not a spinning wheel.  There is yarn on the swift.  The base of the swift is formed from the upturned crotch of a tree cut where three branches meet.  A similar swift is shown in Spencer's Spinning and Weaving at Upper Canada Village.

Margaret Thomas' "Woman Spinning" shows a woman standing with her left arm raised in the air, a strand going from her left hand down through her right hand and down another good foot or more to a spindle suspended in the air.  The spindle has two whorls, rare today, and the cop of yarn is wound between them.  Very little fibre remains to be spun, which makes the portrait look posed.

Pieter Nys' "Woman Spinning" shows a woman spinning flax next to a hearth.  The drive wheel is quite small.  And, nothing to do with spinning, I think I recognize the type of footstool in front of an empty chair as the kind you put coals in for a portable source of radiant heat.  The woman is minding a child as she spins.

Paul Falconer Poole's "An Italian Family" shows a woman seated on a bench outside, spinning with a distaff in her left hand and a top whorl spindle dangling by her hem on her right side.  She is looking straight ahead, not at her fingers.

Isack van Ostade's "Interior of a Barn with an Old Woman at a Distaff" shows just that.  The dressed distaff consists of a long post fixed in a base.  It is placed on the ground near her left hand.  Her hand is raised to draw down fibre.  Her right hand drops down at her right side, holding the tip of a long spindle with no discernible whorl and a cop evenly wound along its whole length.  In the old days, according to Baines, the phrase "spin on a distaff" implicitly meant distaff and spindle.

William Linnell's "The Distaff" shows a woman on the shore seated and holding a distaff in her left hand.  The distaff is dressed with what might be tow flax.  A strand runs down through the right hand, which is at rest on the woman's lap.  If there is a spindle, it is hidden behind her skirt.

Frederick Goodall's "The Distaff Worker" shows a woman seated on the ground in a field.  In her right hand she holds up a spindle, either top or bottom whorl.  Her left hand draws from a mass of fluffy white fibre pinned down by her foot, a method new to me.  There is a lamb in front of her and a flock in the background, so the fibre is probably wool.  The woman's headdress, the dry field, and her position on the ground make me think this scene is in North Africa or the Arab peninsula.

Mark Senior's "The Flax Spinners, Rotterdam" shows a woman vigorously turning a very large wheel by hand and holding fibre in the way you'd use a great wheel.  I hope the flax is tow, I hear line flax is unsuited to great wheels.

T. Cash's "Welsh Woman Picking Wool"

Henry Hetherington Emmerson's "Wool Gathering" shows women gathering wool next to a flock of sheep, probably Scottish Blackface sheep from the markings, horns, and texture of wool.  The women hold their aprons folded at their waists to form bags in which they put wool that was shed by the sheep and left on the plants around them.

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