Advent offering – 18 December

niddy noddy, or yarnwinder

Following yesterday’s post where we saw a candlelit Mary Magdalene, today’s advent offering focuses on another New Testament Mary – Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder (also known as Madonna of the Spindles, c.1501). As as a keen knitter, the title of this painting fascinates me. The yarn winder (also known as a niddy noddy to modern yarn crafters) is used to gather spun yarn into tidy skeins before it is knit or woven.

Da Vinci’s painting shows the infant Jesus holding tightly onto the yarn winder and gazing at its cross-like shape with both fascination and some tenderness. He has wriggled away from his mother’s grasp, giving his full attention to the object he holds, suggesting perhaps his awareness and acceptance, even at this young age, of the inevitable events that await him later in life. Mary, meanwhile, raises her right hand in a gesture that conveys some alarm – does she want to take this cruciform object away from her infant son, sparing him the horror of its significance? Yet, her face is calm and also a little sad; looking gently at the boy, perhaps she, like him, realises that the future is destined and that her son’s story – his beginning and his end – has already been spun, wound, and woven into human history.

Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Yarnwinder (c.1501)

One thought on “Advent offering – 18 December

  1. cedar51 December 18, 2013 / 8:36 pm

    I seem to recall that knowledgeable spinners do not see the object as a “yarn winder” but rather a spindle (spin yarn on it, not with a wheel) that has been modified. The cross pieces are the problem because if you have ever used a niddy noddy – these at at both ends and differenly angled. Niddy noddy has to do with the skill required to wind the yarn into the skeins – you nid and nod (hard to explain) and it’s not a an easy road to hoe. If you don’t start out holding the N/N in the right way it twists…

    Sorry for the mini lecture but I have been spinning (and weaving) since 1980 and am pretty good at a few of these skills…and I have got off topic


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