'Michaelina, Baroque's leading lady'

March 31 2018

Image of 'Michaelina, Baroque's leading lady'

Picture: RKD

Here's an exhibition I've been looking forward to - the first ever show dedicated to Michaelina Wautier (1614–1689), whose self-portrait is above. The show will be at the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, and is part of that city's 'Year of the Baroque'. Regular readers will know that Antwerp is one of my favourite places, and not just because Van Dyck was born there. I highly recommend a visit. 

The exhibition is curated by the Rubens scholar, Prof. Katlijne Van Der Stighelen, and runs from 2nd June till 2nd September. Here's some info on Wautiers from the exhibition website:

Glass ceilings have been around for years: it was an almost impossible task to make a name as a female artist in the 17th century. Despite being a good match for her fellow male artists, Michaelina's work still ended up being forgotten. We currently know of around thirty of her works. These bear witness to challenging topics and a superior pictorial technique.

Very little is known about Michaelina Wautier herself. Her life is barely documented. Born in Mons, this artist moved to Brussels soon after 1640, together with her older brother, the painter Charles Wautier (1609 -1703). Both remained unmarried and lived in a stately town house near the Chapel Church (Kappellekerk).

Wautier distinguishes herself from her female counterparts due to her focus on many different genres. Besides taking on portraits and genre paintings, she also turned her hand to large format historical pieces – a challenge that even many male painters resisted. She effortlessly portrayed religious themes and mythological scenes. She observed everyday reality and painted both poignant children's portraits and astonishing and interesting figures. She mastered all the genres from her era, both in a small and large format. In doing so, Michaelina Wautier was not only unique, but also unusually versatile.

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