Plate with Wife Beating Husband


Not on view

The scene on this copper plate is sometimes thought to represent Aristotle being ridden by Phyllis, but it is more accurately identified as a comic depiction of woman’s tyrannical rule.

Its humor relies in part on the longstanding association between women and spinning. The object at the left of the plate represents a fixed distaff, which was used to spin wool by hand. Once spun onto a spindle, the yarn would be wound off with a cross-reel such as that held by the man. The fact that a man could be reduced to hank winding would alone have been quite amusing to medieval viewers, but that he has been reduced to a most embarrassing position and is in the process of being beaten - possibly for not correctly performing even this simplest of tasks - can only be viewed as a domestic satire.

A plate of this size and depth could have served either as a charge on which to carry large portions of food to the table, or as a basin into which water could be poured.

Plate with Wife Beating Husband, Copper alloy, wrought, Netherlandish

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