The Bustling Housewife
Tapestry panel woven with linen, wool and metal thread wefts and linen warps depicting The Wandering Housewife. A woman in a white veil and red gown sits side-saddle on a brown donkey with a baby tied in her kerchief, spinning a distaff, a basket with two ducks on her back, and a cooking pot, accompanied by a dog, two boars, a young donkey suckling his mother, and two goats, with a scroll ‘Hausrat habe ich genus, wenn ich nur sonst zurecht käme gut’ (‘I have plenty of household goods; otherwise I would not be so important’). Background imitates a navy blue silk woven with pomegranates and leaves.
This is one of Burrell’s small but select group of Swiss tapestries. It depicts a secular theme, which can be linked to satirical prints of the time. These prints – and the tapestries – would have provided decorative ‘talking points’ for their owners, as they have moral content, usually with a humorous slant. The original messages often translate well to modern times – the woman ‘who boasts that she can do it all’ is still a familiar figure.
A similar tapestry, Wandering Housewife, also has a man on the right with a second inscription (Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Cologne).