An Old Woman holding a Distaff and a Spindle
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1617 - Seville 1682)
This mid-17th century picture shows the figure of an old woman holding a stick with a bunch of wool or flax from which thread is spun, called a distaff. The popular Spanish proverb 'Poco gana la vieja hilando, pero menos gana mirando' (little does the old woman gain weaving, but less so just watching) is being alluded to. Another version of this picture in the Prado, Madrid is generally thought to be a copy of the Stourhead one by Murillo.
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 Spanish 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 (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 catalogued as after Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1617 - Seville 1682) previously catalogued as attributed to Diego Velázquez (Seville 1599 - Madrid 1660) previously catalogued as attributed to Giacomo Francesco Cipper, il Todeschini (Feldkirch 1664 – Milan 1736)
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