Title   Naeister (Search for the image)
Translated title Needleworkers
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of needleworkers (`naaisters’)

Code of occupational group 79510
Description In the interior of a house, two women are engaged in needlework. An older woman, whose head is covered with a matron's cap, is sitting on a chair. She bends over slightly to see more clearly the item she sews. She holds a threaded needle in her right hand and holds onto the fabric with her left. The fabric rests on a sewing cushion on her lap. Next to her and slightly behind, a young, curly-haired, woman stands slightly bent at the waist; she holds a pair of shears in her left hand.

To the right of the women, the legs and rug-covered top of a table can be seen with one or two objects on it. The women work in a room illuminated by three windows, a double window to the left, and a single one to the right, each with many diamond-shaped panes of glass. A circular framed painting hangs between the windows on the wall behind the women. The furnishings make it clear that these needleworkers performed their labors at home, in this case, in the home of a well-to-do middle-class family. Whether the seated woman is the mother of the household or a servant employed to take care of the family's laundry and sewing needs is impossible to determine.

Needlework was thought an appropriate task for women of all social classes. In keeping their hands busy making or mending clothes for their families, or making objects which might be sold, they were enacting the Biblical injunction from Proverbs 31: 10-13 which extols the priceless wife who worked with wool and flax, spinning with the distaff and spindle, and making linen to sell.

Bramer's needle workers are reminiscent of Jacobus Vrel's "Interior with a Woman Darning" in which a woman sits in a chair, quietly mending clothing. Vrel had been active in Delft and Haarlem 1654-1662. It is conceivable that Bramer knew the painting, now in the Bader collection in Milwaukee. The theme of women sewing, however, was found in many Dutch paintings and drawings. Quiringh Gerritsz. van Brekelenkam's "Lace-Maker's School" indicates that girls from affluent families were taught to make bobbin lace as another female" accomplishment."

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.

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