It represented the goddess, standing in the stiff archaic style, holding a spear in her right hand, in her left a distaff and spindle or a shield.
Before the introduction of machinery applicable to the spinning of silk waste, the refuse from cocoon reeling, and also from silk winding, which is now used in producing spun silk fabrics, hosiery, &c., was nearly all destroyed as being useless, with the exception of that which could be hand-combed and spun by means of the distaff and spinning wheel, a method which is still practised by some of the peasantry in India and other Eastern countries.
In his sanctuary on the Quirinal, the foundation of which was celebrated on the 5th of June, there were shown the distaff and spindle of Tanaquil, the wife of Tarquinius Priscus, and in the, eyes of Roman matrons the embodiment of all wifely virtues.
It remains uncertain whether a small Madonna with distaff and spindle, which the correspondent of Isabella Gonzaga reports Leonardo as having begun for one Robertet, a favourite of the king of France, was ever finished.
This deputation led to the recall of Narses in 567, accompanied, according to a somewhat late tradition, by an insulting message from the empress Sophia, who sent him a golden distaff, and bade him, as he was not a man, go and spin wool in the apartments of the women.