Housewives In Art

By Alison November 25, 2013 5 Comments 1 Min Read

Welcome back to my Housewives In Art series: brought back especially for this painting from Wenzel Tornoe that I happened across on Tumblr today..
Painted in 1882 it depicts a woman who has laid her head on the wall behind her, apparently exhausted or overcome by some gentle emotion. I don’t know. None of us can- though it probably has political undertones, in terms of our dressmaker in her relatively plain garb, exhausted by the efforts it has taken to complete the fine garment she is probably working on for a moneyed client, in in time apparently, for Whitsun.

Art is the greatest mystery of all isn’t it? If only because we are required to provide our own commentary while we drink in the details the artist has provided. The pins in her apron. Her eyes not quite shut. The reflection from the oil lamp…

Sad and lovely all at once.


  1. Ouissi says:

    Change the hair colour and it could be me…swooning over a piece of darning…

  2. chrissie says:

    the good old days …

  3. Annmarie says:

    It’s called “A Maid with Her Needlework”, from a time when sewing was done by hand, and a maid worked 17-18 hours a day with one afternoon off a week.Back then, every woman, except for the wealthy, was sewing at every opportunity — sheets, underpants, undershirts, petticoats, slips, shirts, pants, dresses, Sanitary Napkins, and she then sewed homemade lace on to them, and embroidered everything. I don’t know how they had the time to have all those kids.

  4. brocantehome says:

    Annmarie as far as I know it is called “A Dressmaker on Whitsunday Morning”? And I suspect they had the time because they both made the time and distraction of the tv/internet/magazine/kindle type were few and far between. Some of me longs for that kind of peace and focus…

  5. Annmarie says:

    You may be right about the title. I looked it up on the internet to get the Maid one. I disagree about the distractions. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote how she and her husband were talking at the beginning of the 20th century, when people had things like pre-made clothing and sewing machines, about how they never had time, and how hard it was for their parents who didn’t have modern conveniences.I challenge you to sew underwear, numerous petticoats, knit lace for them, and one dress of that era — without a sewing machine, and then start on clothes for your family. Do that while cooking on a wood burning stove, heating bathwater on that stove, and using oil lamps that have to be maintained, and then get back to me.
    My grandmother, who was born in the 1890’s, but lived in Five Points, so didn’t have a lot of the amenities of the day, used to say that living back then seemed good to those who didn’t have to live back then!
    Each age has its advantages and disadvantages. Our biggest disadvantages these days are not electronic, but psychological. We (and I mean I in that we) have too little discipline, and have too much nostalgia. I am a girl who constantly feels she was born in the wrong time, and I know. That nostalgia’s a killer.

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