Women in arts and sciences the focus of 17th & 18th century exhibit at Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis in The Hague will open an exhibition of 17th-century paintings on February 10, a third of which were painted by women.
The paintings are floral still lifes, a genre in which female painters enjoyed considerable success at the time. The artists’ work even ended up in noble and royal collections, including those of Louis XIV and King-Stadtholder William III, according to the museum. Yet the women artists remain largely unknown –– a fact the museum wants to change with the exhibition “In Full Bloom.”
Work by Rachel Ruysch, Maria van Oosterwijck, Judith Leyster, Clara Peeters, Michaelina Wautier and Maria Sybilla Merian will soon be on display in the museum. According to Mauritshuis: "After their deaths, they were often forgotten or their works were attributed to male colleagues –– was it impossible that a woman could paint so beautifully?" In several cases, a man casually put his name on their artwork later on.
The most famous and successful painter included in the exhibit is probably Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). According to the museum, her “Vaas met bloemen” from 1700 is particularly unique because the flowers in the bouquet are already wilting. Ruysch, who had 10 children, surpassed her husband, who also painted. She nevertheless continued to paint until she was 85, and around 150 of her paintings are still in circulation.
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was a researcher as well as an artist, and her work is also on display at Mauritshuis. She left behind botanical drawings and important scientific publications. In 1699, she traveled to Suriname to research insects, and subsequently published a book about it. She also published a book on caterpillars, for which she researched and created drawings.
Amsterdammer Agnes Block (1629-1704) managed to grow the first pineapple in Europe in 1687, according to Mauritshuis. She invited botanical artists to capture all the plants and flowers in her garden at her country house on the Vecht, including Alida Withoos, Maria Moninckx and Merian. An image of the first European pineapple is also being displayed at the museum.
Reporting by ANP