Medieval images of carding, spinning, and weaving

This miniature or painting comes from a French translation of a text written by the fourteenth century Italian author, Boccaccio. The text is entitled Concerning Famous Women, and this specific copy of the text was made for Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. The manuscript now in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris (Fr. 12420) was given to Philip on New Year’s Day of 1403 by an Italian merchant by the name of Jacques Rapondi. The specific miniature opens the text devoted to the Roman queen Gaia, the wife of King Tarquinius. While illustrating Gaia’s attention to domestic occupations, the miniature can be used to give us insights to the workings of medieval industries. Here the miniaturist has represented the different stages in the production of cloth with the combing and carding of wool at the bottom right and the spinning of the wool above. Gaia is at the loom weaving the wool. The production and marketing of cloth played a central role in the economic resurgence in the later Middle Ages. Italian merchants like Jacques Rapondi gained great prosperity through the selling of cloth produced in Italian towns like

Florence and his native Lucca to aristocrats of northern Europe. Study of the cloth industry reveals the clear subdivision of production into separate specializations. The industry depended on the coordinated efforts of these independent specialists. To work collaboratively was clearly essential.

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