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  • Old Woman Unreeling Threads

    Artist:
    Dou, Gerard (Gerrit). 1613
    Technique:
    oil
    Dimensions:
    32x23 cm

Dou, Gerard (Gerrit). 1613

Old Woman Unreeling Threads

Holland, Circa 1660-1665

Title:

Old Woman Unreeling Threads

Place:

Material:

Technique:

oil

Dimensions:

32x23 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1768; acquired from the K. Cobenzl collection in Brussels

Inventory Number:

ГЭ-887

Comment:

Source of Entry: Collection of Count Cobenzl in Brussels, 1768 Literary sources claimed for a long time that the ’Old Woman Unreeling Threads’ by Dou entered the Hermitage in 1768 from the Count Cobenzl collection along with the ‘Old Woman Reading a Book’ that was a pair with it (inv. № ГЭ 885). Both paintings were originally of the same size (’Old Woman Unreeling Threads’ was added and finished in the 18th century). However, as C. Phillips [2011] correctly pointed out, the ‘Old Woman Reading a Book’ entered the Hermitage from the cabinet of J. de Julienne. It seems that the supposition about the two paired paintings was made on the basis on their similar sizes. The figure of a goodly scraggy old woman dressed in a red jacket with a white gathered collar and a blue skirt can be repeatedly seen in Dou’s works produced around 1660–1665. She is often depicted spinning wool, reading the Bible or watering flowers. In emblematic literature such household pursuits serve as metaphors of piety and are associated with feminine virtues. According to U.Franits [1993], spinning wool embodies temperance, the virtue traditionally associated with old age. The idea of transience of life (memento mori) belongs to such images too. The composition uses the motif of a stone arch, through which the viewer can see the heroine’s figure in the interior. This dramatic illusionistic effect is often present in Dou’s late works. The old copy of the painting, which preserves the initial version with some changes made, is kept in the private collection in the USA, where it is attributed to Dominicus van Tol.

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Collection: