A maiolica jug showing a woman spinning wool

c. 1490 - 1500
Italy, probably Pesaro
tin-glazed earthenware
21.5 x 12.5 x 16 cm

A bulbous jug depicting a Romanticised vision of a woman spinning yarn. In the Middle Ages, a hand spindle was the only tool available, which made the process of turning fibres into yarn a simple yet extremely time-consuming process. Spinning was therefore done anywhere and everywhere – in the home, in between tasks, while tending to livestock and doing errands. It is interesting to note that almost no images survive that show men spinning, suggesting that spinning was commonly done by women. This image of a woman spinning gives us a glimpse into the kind of work that women would have done on a daily basis – whether they were wealthy or poor.

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages