Hans von Bartels girls faces and arms are so purple red in his painting of the Dutch island of Urk on the front cover of my book Mordacious Knits.
No, it's not that he could have painted those faces and arms any less red, and here's the reason why.
At the end of an hour, a dark spot appeared on the horizon, which gradually resolved itself into a huddle of red-roofed houses, grouped behind a dyke; and at 8.30, we ran into a somewhat complicated harbour and tied up at the pier.There was a crowd of people waiting, for the arrival of the boat is the one event of the day at Urk, and they stared at us, as we went ashore, more curiously even than we stared at them.
The costume of Urk has no especially noteworthy feature. The women wear a multitude of skirts, which give them great breadth of beam. The skirts end some inches above the ankles, and truth compels me to add that the ankles are anything but shapely.The upper part of their dress consists of a closely-fitting waist, which represses all curves and which is always elaborately embroidered. During the week it is protected by an over-covering of linen, also embroidered.
Their sleeves end just above the elbow. And from there down, their arms, exposed ceaselessly to all sorts of weather, are baked by the sun and frozen by the cold to a dull, repulsive, and most painful-looking purple. I am told that the women are proud of this colour, because, I suppose it proclaims them to be good workers. They wear a close-fitting little cap of lace, under which the hair is tucked, except for a protuberant bang in front. On week-days the cap, also, is protected by a linen cover, and the front of the skirt is protected by an ample apron, with a queer inset of embroidery at the top, something after the Marken fashion.
´The Spell of Holland´€¯ Burton Egbert Stevenson, 1872-1962, American.
Written by Burton in the Netherlands in 1903.