Museo del Prado Opens First Ever Exhibition Dedicated to a Female Artist

The 200-year-old institution hosts the work of Flemish painter Clara Peeters.

Clara Peeters, Table with Cloth, Salt Cellar, Gilt Standing Cup, Pie, Porcelain Plate with Olives and Cooked Fowl (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

One hundred and ninety-seven years after opening its doors as the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, the Museo del Prado in Madrid inaugurated its first-ever exhibition dedicated to the work of a female artist yesterday. “The Art of Clara Peeters ” comprises 15 major works by the Flemish still-life painter, who was active in the early 17th century in Antwerp.

The online exhibition text clarifies that the scholarship around the show contextualizes Peeters and her work, while also “drawing attention to the situation of women artists on the threshold of the modern era when their opportunities were hindered by widespread prejudices.”

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

In the Prado’s case, the museum’s collection began as a royal one, and as a long-standing institution, it’s apparently not so easy to make up for hundreds of years of “widespread prejudices,” when, in 2016, their bursting collection is filled with work by male artists.

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Flowers, Gilt Goblet, Dried Fruits, Sweets, Biscuits, Wine and a Pewter Flagon (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Flowers, Gilt Goblet, Dried Fruits, Sweets, Biscuits, Wine and a Pewter Flagon (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

Although Peeters is a key figure in the early history of still life painting, the museum has already hosted two exhibitions on later (male) still life painters. In 2004, it organized “Luis Meléndez: The Still Life,” on the work of the 18th century Madrileño; and in 2013, a grape-focused exhibition on the work of still life painter Juan Fernández el Labrador, also from Madrid.

The museum also has a notable collection of Flemish painting, including Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross and Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. But as the Art Newspaper noted, the Prado only holds work by 41 women—including Peeters—versus a number upwards of 5,000 men.

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Fish, Candle, Artichokes, Crabs and Shrimp (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Fish, Candle, Artichokes, Crabs and Shrimp (1611). Image courtesy of Museo del Prado.

But now, the extraordinary Peeters—who is thought to have created her earliest masterpieces as a teenager, despite never registering with the official artists’ guild—gets her due. She captured elaborate banquet scenes, with lively floral bouquets, soft breads, slippery fish, shining porcelain, and reflective glass, in which she would often masterfully paint her own reflection.

The exhibition is curated by Alejandro Vergara, Chief Curator of Flemish and Northern School Painting, and co-organized by the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp.

The Art of Clara Peeters” is on view until February 19, 2017.


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