Female Old Master Painter Michaelina Wautier Gets Her First Big Show

Michaelina Wautier will be shown at the Rubens Museum in Antwerp.

Michaelina Wautier, Self Portrait (1649).

17th century female painter Michaelina Wautier will finally receive a long overdue solo exhibition—the first ever to be dedicated solely to her work—at Rubens House in Antwerp. Slated for 2018, the survey will include an overview of the many genres in which she practiced.

Unlike her female peers, who at the time worked mostly in depictions of flower compositions, Wautier painted portraits, history pictures, still-lifes and everyday scenes. Roughly 30 paintings are attributed to Wautier’s hand. She was supported by patron Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, who commissioned her works and acquired four of her paintings for his collection.

Her 1649 self-portrait, which for a long time was misunderstood to be a portrait of another Baroque painter, Italian Artemisia Gentileschi, remains one of Wautier’s best-known paintings. It was included in the 1905 book Women Painters of the World. Among other recognizable works is The Triumph of Bacchus (1650), which is housed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. 

While little is known about her life, Wautier was born in Mons around 1617, but was primarily active in Brussels, where she lived with her brother and fellow painter, Charles, until her death in 1689.

According to the Art Newspaper, the recent interest in Wautier’s oeuvre comes from a sale at a Koller auction in Zurich in March 2016, in which her 1654 portrait of Jesuit missionary Martino Martini sold for CHF400,000 ($399,800) with an estimate of CHF7,000—CHF10,000.

The exhibition will be curated by Katlijne Van der Stighelen of the University of Leuven, for which Stighelen will also prepare Wautier’s catalogue raisonné.

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