Friday, 26 June 2009

Tricoteuse – William Bougereau (1879)


‘Tricoteuse’ is the French word for someone, especially a woman, who knits.  Someone such as the old women who famously sat and knitted while above them Madame Guillotine carried out her daily shaving  of heads – a ceremony called by some enthusiasts “the red mass.”

So is this just a young girl knitting?  Or, since nothing in art is unintentional, is something more intended?  What clues are there in the painting?


  1. Well it's difficult to say with PC monitor resolution and a lack of late nineteeth century french history knowledge.
    A young girl, with her back to the wall...A nation with no choice? A people of determination? Purpose? She appears to be rising up out of the darkness and knitting a particularly fine cloth for knitting needles. Her eyes are sunken and dark with smudges as if she has been crying. The place she stands in within view of a stairwell and view of the mountains behind. A future path to enlightenment or transcendence of some sort?

  2. Look at her dress, the architecture and the landscape: this is not France; perhaps she is a pied-noir, but more likely an arab. I doubt it has any further meaning. These studies of exotic people are quite common in the Academic tradition.

  3. Prompted by this post, I had a bit of a read up on William Bougereau and enjoyed the chronological series of images that Wikipedia has of his work.

    The model for this appears in a LOT of his work, in fact viewing it chronologically you watch her aging slightly.

    Looks like he had a thing about knitting too


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