Oil painting on canvas, An Old Woman holding a Distaff and a Spindle, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1617 – Seville 1682), circa 1650-60. The picture shows a half-length figure of an old woman, wearing a grey-brown jacket and white headress, whose body is facing towards the left but looks out directly. She is holding a stick with a bunch of wool or flax from which thread is spun, called a distaff, in her left hand. The popular proverb dedicated to a figure with these characterstics was the following: 'Poco gana la vieja hilando, pero menos gana mirando' ( little does the old woman gain weaving, but less so just watching).
Possibly " 48. Moreillo.Old Woman's head" in 1721 inventory of Matthew Prior (1644 - 1721); subsequently acquired by Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689 – 1741) but not in his sale of affects in 1741;acquired by Richard Colt Hoare 2nd Bt (1758 – 1838) before 1800; in house by 1838; given to the National Trust along with the house, its grounds, and the rest of contents by Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, 6th Bt (1865 – 1947) in 1946.
Stourhead, The Hoare Collection (The National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: On the back, in black paint: 38 (upside down)
Makers and roles
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1617 - Seville 1682), artist
previously attributed to after Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1617 - Seville 1682)
previously attributed to Diego Velázquez (Seville 1599 - Madrid 1660)
previously attributed to Giacomo Francesco Cipper (Feldkirch 1664 – Milan 1736), il Todeschini
Stourhead 1838: Inventory of Heir-Looms at Stourhead directed to be taken by the Will of the late Sir Richard Colt Hoare Bart. with the state and condition thereof, 1838 , no.344
Stourhead Wiltshire, 1992: List of Pictures, [National Trust; Anthony Mitchell & Alastair Laing] 1992 , p.15
Murillo: Scenes of Childhood, Xanthe Brooke & Peter Cherry, Dulwich Picture Gallery 2001, pp.64-5 & fig. 45