Object type

tapestry panel


The Wandering Housewife

Place Associated

Switzerland (place of manufacture)


circa 1470-1480


linen (warps), linen (wefts), wool (wefts), metal (wefts), 7 warp threads per cm, 2 ply S


overall: 860 mm x 1090 mm


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.

Lorraine Karafel states that: 'Scholars have offered various interpretations of this intriguing image, which remains to be further studied. Betty Kurth suggested that the tapestry may have served as an admonition against overzealous housewives and their domestic activities. Heinrich Göbel noted that the animals may have erotic associations and indeed, in the fifteenth century the monkey was associated with sinfulness, especially lust, as was the goat. A dog - a symbol of fidelity - runs behind the entourage. Another tapestry in Cologne, depicts a similar image with, however, a young man approaching the lady. He addresses her as ‘metzlin’, a colloquial term for a prostitute, although, judging by her response, she is ‘too busy’, suggesting that her many activities and interests do not include love.' (Cleland, E. and Karafel, L., (2017). Glasgow Museums: Tapestries from The Burrell Collection, 176).

Provenance: Tousain Collection, Paris; Dr Albert Figdor, Vienna; his sale, Collection Dr Albert Figdor, Part 1, Artaria & Co., Vienna, 11–13 June 1930, lot 26, pl.11; from where purchased by Sir William Burrell, for £2,975.

Credit Line/Donor

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944


Burrell Collection: European Tapestries

ID Number



Burrell Collection

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