Bartholomeus van der Helst: Two regents and two regentesses of the Spinhouse of Amsterdam (1650)

(Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A spinhouse was a reform school for criminal- or homeless women. These women were sent here by the law so that the women could be re-educated with 'order and discipline' for a re-entry into society. In the spinhouse the women were put to work, the type of work (spinning or knitting) depended on the severity of their crime. The paintings shows the interior of a spinhouse with 4 of the board-of-directors in the front. The board-of-directors of the spinhouse consisted of 2 women and 3 men and their main job was to manage the finances. The names of the regents are known, from left to right: Pietertje de Vries, Catharina Brouwers, Nicolaes Rochusz van de Capelle and Jacob van Rijn. At the right, a so-called 'binnenvader' or provost enters with a book which contains a list of the women who were sent to the spinhouse in the year 1650. This 'binnenvader' managed the spinhouse when the regents were absent. At the left in the background we can see the women who are put to work. If you look closely you can see that 1 of the women is about to get hit with a shoe by the 'mother' - the woman who supervises the work. In the center you can also see some visitors, people could see the criminal women for a small amount of money (undoubtly to scare the children to behave themselves). This painting is from 1650.

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