Title   Cleermaaker (Search for the image)
Translated title Tailor
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a tailor (‘kleermaker’)

Code of occupational group 79100
Description A tailor stands bent over his table using a pair of shears in his right hand to cut fabric, which he is steadying with his left hand. Underneath the table there is a wicker basket for scraps. To the left, two apprentice boys sit cross-legged on a worktable. They face each other, sewing garments. There is a wicker basket under their worktable too. Across the rear of the shop, clothes in varied states of completion hang on a line. A pair of large scissors hangs from a nail in the wall.

Clothing made by tailors was sold to individual customers who came to the tailor's shop. Tailors worked with wool, linen, saai, worsteds, serges, and mixtures of wool with cotton or silk, in addition to damask, muslin, silk, and silk blended fabrics.* Apprentice labor provided cheap help for the tailor while the apprentices learned the requisite skills of the craft. The number of apprentices was limited by gild regulations. Shears were commonly used as the gild insignia for tailors. Some tailor shops advertised their existence by hanging large shears or signboards with shears outside the workshop so that they could be readily identified by passersby on the street.

In Jan van Vliet's etching, two apprentices also sit on the table. The tailor uses the shears in the same way; and there are baskets near or under both worktables. Van Vliet, however, adds the detail of a measuring ruler for the tailor to check the accuracy of his cutting fabric to the client's measurements. Amman's tailor in the Ständebuch is using shears, but there are more workers in the shop. The tailor and his apprentices were a familiar theme for many Dutch painters; see Quiringh van Brekelenkam's versions in the Rijksmuseum where the tailor is particularly well-dressed and in the Worcester Art Museum where he is more humbly attired.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

  • See Linda Stone-Ferrier's Images of Textiles: The Weave of Seventeenth Century Dutch Art and Society, 1985.

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