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Back home…

I’m back from our little vacation and working my way through the list of e-mails that arrived during the last few days. While I’m busy getting both my real and my virtual household back into working order, you can amuse yourselves with this picture of a medieval wandering household, complete with baby:

The image caption says it’s jugglers/artists travelling. It’s a coloured xylograph, single-leaf prints from about 1450. Today at the Herzog-Anton-Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig.

What I really like about this picture is that it shows a lot of medieval household items. You can see half a kitchen sticking out from the woman’s carrycloth around her back… and as a true multitasking female, she’s not only travelling, keeping all the household stuff, looking after the livestock (see the chickens on her head?) and looking after the baby, she’s also spinning at the same time. Amazing. And modern folks say there’s a lot of pressure on women nowadays…

Source: UITZ, ERIKA: Die Frau im Mittelalter. Wien 2003. Page 102.

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4 Responses to Back home…

  1. hsifeng says:

    Thank you for sharing that; it's a nice example of just how much multi-tasking one woman can accomplish…*grin* Although I do wonder if it is actually representational or only meant to show that women worked hard.

  2. Actually, that's a hard question to answer. I'm pretty sure that she is in care of all the stuff because she's sitting on the back of the steed – it would be a tad unfair if he had to carry the things and walk. Then, spinning is the typical female work that can be done in between, at about any time, and can be done in short slivers of time, a few minutes here and a few minutes there. So… looking at the picture, I'm not convinced that it is showing an actual travel situation. The distaff has to be held up by something, since she is not holding it; however, the thing is perfectly upright. Then I imagine it's a bit awkward to spin across the baby's travelling box/bed, like she does, all with the right arm being hindered by the carry sling. And that chicken basket has either to sit extremely well on her head or must be so stuffed that no chicken can move – otherwise, she'll need a hand to steady it occasionally.
    Taking all this together, my guess is that we see a travelling situation plus spinning – maybe showing that a travelling artist's wife is a pretty normal female, except for her taste in men. I can also imagine that she spun, as usual, when possible during the travels, but maybe not packed like that and while on the move. However, we won't know until we try, and it would surely be fun to try and recreate that situation! Anybody got a medieval household and an ass?

  3. hsifeng says:

    *chuckle* I am short the baby, the ass and the distaff. I could pretty much manage to come up with the rest from my early 16th C kit…

    I tend to lean toward the 'look at all the stuff it takes to travel!' idea. As for her spinning, of course she is; it takes a lot of thread/yarn to make clothes, points, laces, belts, bags, etc. etc. etc. *grin* It seems like almost all women were spinning pretty much any time their hands weren't full of some other task. One of my other favorite images is the one of the woman spinning next to the fire with a lit taper in her mouth. Now *that* took some skill!

  4. Eheh. You'd probably be able to lend an ass and a distaff somewhere, but the baby might pose a problem. That spinning-with-taper sounds nice – can I find the picture somewhere on the net or in a book? I'd like to see it!

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