Skip to main content

Louise Bourgeois

Spider Woman
2005

Not on view

Date
2005

Classification
Prints

Medium
Drypoint

Dimensions
Sheet (Irregular): 13 9/16 × 13 1/2in. (34.4 × 34.3 cm) Plate (Oval): 6 3/4 × 9 5/16in. (17.1 × 23.7 cm)

Accession number
2006.76

Edition
14/25 | 7 APs, 5 PPs, 2 HCs

Publication
Printed and published by Harlan & Weaver

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

Rights and reproductions
© The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Louise Bourgeois included spiders in her work for many years, explaining that the theme related to her mother who rewove antique tapestries that had grown threadbare. Here, the spider motif is central to the composition: it is compressed to fit the contours of the red oval, which might be seen as maternal in its suggestion of a womb or an egg. The spider’s body is created from a human head out of which long skeins of hair emerge and transform into legs. Like many of Bourgeois’s works, this one has mythological as well as personal references. In Greek mythology, spiders were created when the gifted weaver Arachne challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest. Arachne proclaimed her own work superior to the goddesses, and the goddess turned her into a spider. In some versions of the myth, Arachne’s transformation is a punishment for her arrogance, but other versions allow the possibility that Arachne’s work really was better than that of the goddess, who changed the young woman out of jealousy.  




Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
Ryan Kuo, Hateful Little Thing

Learn more

All visitors aged 12 and older must show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission to the Whitney, in accordance with NYC requirements. Visitors aged 18 and older will also be asked to show photo ID. Face coverings are required for all visitors. Learn more about the Whitney’s safety guidelines.