From the museum website, 2 March 2009
The exhibition concentrates on representations of the ideal woman in Dutch art from 1600 until 1850 and in contemporary art.
Thinking of the ideal woman nowadays, physical beauty is one of the first aspects that come to mind. But in the past women had to meet with quite different qualities. Up until the mid 19th century the ideal woman was a mix of marital fidelity and chastity, devoted motherhood, domesticity, piety, wisdom and bravery. Physical beauty, a beautiful and sexy appearance moreover, is a typical late 20th-century ideal.
As early as the 16th century prints were published with exemplary Biblical women like Eve, Sarah and Rebecca to educate the female onlooker in a moral way. Morals of that day had it that a woman’s job was in her house, as a wife, mother and housewife. If a woman possessed the right virtues, she added up to her husband’s good reputation. The most popular role models were not only represented in prints, but also in paintings, on furniture and other domestic objects. This tradition can be traced up till the 19th century.