One of the most famous heroines of Greek mythology was Penelope, who used weaving to keep her suitors at bay while her husband Odysseus was away. She told them she would not choose one to marry until she had finished weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law. Each night she would unravel the work she had done that day, until eventually one of the servants gave her away. Finally Odysseus returned after twenty years and once she recognised him they were happily reunited.

'Penelope and her Suitors' - John William Waterhouse, 1912.
In some versions of the tale, Odysseus arrives home in disguise and Penelope sets an archery challenge to the suitors saying the winner will have her hand in marriage. The disguised Odysseus wins the challenge and they are then reunited. Penelope became a symbol of patience and marital fidelity, and she became the subject of many famous artworks, a selection of which follow.

'Penelope at her Loom'-Sidney Harold Meteyard.
'Odysseus and Penelope' - Francesco Primaticcio, 1563.
'Penelope' - John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, 1864.

'Penelope at Her Loom' - Angelica Kauffmann, 1764.
'Penelope' - Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1869.


'Penelope Awakened by Eurycleia' - Angelica Kaufmann, 1772.

'Penelope Unraveling Her Web' - Joseph Wright of Derby, 1784.