Enrico Astorri was born in Piacenza and began his studies as a sculptor at the Instituto Gazzola in his home town as a teenager. He quickly transferred to the famous Accademia di Brera in Milan, and established himself in a studio there in 1885. In the following years he exhibited many of his works at national and international exhibitions including his bronzed gesso Pesca interrotta (Fishing interrupted) in Milan in 1885 and Schiavo abissino (Abyssinian Slave) in 1892. With such works he quickly established a reputation for the representation of genre figures and orientalist subjects. In 1894, he unveiled the plaster version of the present composition at the Triennale in Milan in which an Arab seamstress, possibly observed in the streets of Italy, is portrayed cradling her child whilst poised on a step with oriental decoration. The model is enriched with a multitude of textures, polished skin, thick drapery and rough stone and tiles. Her physical beauty is evident but her features are far from those of the classical nudes that had formed academic taste in the preceding decades. Astorri's triumph of naturalism was recognised and he was selected to exhibit at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900 and at the Munich exposition in the following year. On both occassions the Filatrice Araba was awarded the Gold Medal by the jury, affirming Astorri's fame.
According to Panzetta the version of La Filatrice Araba shown in Munich is preserved in the Stadtmuseum there. A marble version of the same dimensions sold at Christie’s London as lot 239 on 17 March 2011 for £97,250 (aggregate).
V. Vicario, Gli scultori italiani dal Neoclassicismo al Liberty, Lodi, 1994, vol. I, pp. 43-46; A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani dell'Ottocento e del primo Novecento, Turin, 2003, vol. I, p. 36