Girl Spinning, 1818
Marble, SPSG Skulpt.slg. 5579
Schadow modelled the Girl Spinning (13) in 1816. The young woman is depicted holding a finished clew of yarn in her raised left hand. The hanging threads and the attached hand spindle are now missing. The ambiguous figure – spinner or Goddess of Fate – was extremely popular. Poems were even dedicated to her. In 1821 the Prussian King acquired this sculpture, unaware that it already belonged to the Bavarian Crown Prince. This resulted in a brief diplomatic crisis.
In 1818 the Crown Prince of Bavaria, the later King Ludwig I, commissioned a copy of the Girl Spinning from Schadow in Rome. He paid the artist so that he was able to buy the marble. In 1820, in order to raise interest for his work in Berlin, Schadow sent this figure and a Girl Tying her Sandal to his father. Johann Gottfried Schadow organized a small exhibition in his studio, at which King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia acquired both sculptures. As the Girl Spinning already belonged to the Bavarian Crown Prince, Ridolfo was concerned that he would lose his favour as a client. Consequently, he immediately started on a new version. Unfortunately, his premature death prevented this copy from reaching Bavaria.
Schadow enthralled the public with his Girl Spinning. At the beginning of the 19th century it was a popular theme in poetry and music. Poems in German and English were also dedicated to Schadow’s Girl Spinning. Two surviving copper engravings from Domenico Marchetti (1780-1838) show her with threads and spindle (17, 18). The actual act of spinning also employed the distaff, as depicted by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) in his watercolour of a spinning Roman (19).
Sylva van der Heyden
Statue of the spinning girl, at Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire.
SPIN on, most beautiful.
There's none to mock
Thy simple labour here. Majestic forms
Of high renown, and brows of classic grace,
Whose sculptured features speak the breathing soul,
Rise in illustrious ranks, but not to scorn
Thy lowly toil.
Even so it was of old,
That woman's hand, amid the elements
Of patient industry and household good,
Reproachless wrought, twining the slender thread
From the light distaff, or in skilful loom
Weaving rich tissues, or with glowing tints
Of rich embroidery, pleased to decorate
The mantle of her lord. And it was well ;
For in such shelter'd and congenial sphere
Content with duty dwelt.
Yet few there are,
Sweet Filatrice, who in their earnest task
Find such retreat as thine, mid lordly halls,
And sparkling fountains, and umbrageous trees,
And parks far stretching, where the antler'd deer
Forget the hound and horn.
And we, who roam
Mid all this grand enchantment - proud saloons,
And galleries radiant with the gems of art
And genius, ravish'd from the grasp of time
And princely chapel, uttering praise to God
Or lose ourselves amid the wildering maze
Of plants, and flowers, and blossoms, breathing forth
Their eloquence to Him - delighted lay
This slight memorial at thy snowy feet.
Lydia Huntley Sigourney, 1841
Ridolfo Schadow. The Judgement of Cupid
Special Presentation on the 200th Anniversary of the Death of Ridolfo Schadow
28 May to 31 December 2022
Charlottenburg Palace – New Wing
Ridolfo Schadow. Son – Sculptor – Roman
- The Sculpture Group "The Judgement of Cupid"