Title   Speldenwerchster (Search for the image)
Translated title Lacemaker
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a lacemaker (`passementwerker’)

Code of occupational group 75452
Description Two women sit working in a room hung with two paintings and a mirror. A young woman sits in a ladderback chair, making lace. She has a lacemaker's cushioned chest on her lap, and is bending forward to see the delicate work more clearly. Her left hand manipulates a series of bobbins. Next to her right foot, there is a small wooden footwarmer, suggesting that the room might be chilly. Next to the lacemaker, an older woman sits winding fine thread from a swift onto a lace bobbin.

Needlework was considered appropriate for women of all social classes*. Indeed, spinning was thought to be one of the hallmarks of domestic virtue, so much so that female criminals were sentenced to correctional "spinning houses". Lacemaking, however, was a form of needlework more characteristic of wealthier women than poor women.

Lace was used by 17th-century Dutch people to decorate women's bodices, necklines, cuffs, and hair caps. Distinguished men also wore lace collars, and cuffs; some gallants wore lace on their hose above the tops of their tall boots.

The lacemaker is a figure in a number of 17th-century Dutch genre paintings. See especially Johannes Vermeer's 1665-68 "Lacemaker" in the Louvre and Caspar Netscher's 1664 treatment of the woman making lace in the Wallace Collection. Almost invariably the woman making lace in Dutch paintings is from the wealthier classes, indicated by the sumptuousness of her clothing and jewelry, and the elegance of her surroundings. Brarner's women are not dressed elegantly, but the large sized paintings suggest wealth. Bramer's caption points to the fact that lacemakers used pins to create the pattern around which the threads were laced: "spelden" translates to "pins".

Winding thread from a swift was the old man's task in Quiringh van Brekelenkam's (1653) "Man Spinning and Woman Scraping Carrots" (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Far more often, women were depicted using the spinning wheel and/or the swift.

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.

Notes *See Linda Stone-Ferrier, The Image of Textiles: The Weave of Seventeenth Century Dutch Art and Society, 1985.

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