Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Household Tasks

Geertruydt Roghman, 1648 — 1652
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Household Tasks series of engravings consists of five prints depicting women engaged in domestic activities. We see girls and women sewing, spinning, cooking at the hearth, and polishing cookware in the kitchen. It is amazing how much these unpretentious, laconically engraved compositions tell us. They include all ages – from childhood to old age, burghers and maids, the full breadth of indispensable domestic work done by women, as well as a whole encyclopaedia of household utensils. In seventeenth-century Dutch printmaking this is the only example of this subject matter. Its uniqueness also lies in the fact that it was a woman who was herself reflecting on these household chores. Geertruydt Roghman – one of the rare female engravers in the Netherlands – primarily worked after designs of other artists, and the Household Tasks series is her only remaining original work. Girl at Needlework is the only engraving in the series that contains symbolic details, with a clock on the wall and a skull on the floor. The clock may symbolize the measured, virtuous life led by the girl in the engraving. The skull, a symbol of Vanitas, reminds us of the eternal truth about the transience of youth and life in general. These details give the scene of everyday life a philosophical dimension that was typical of Dutch thinking at the time.

Nataliya Markova, Senior Researcher, Curator of Netherlandish, Dutch and Flemish Prints and Drawings of XVI – XX Centuries, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow

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