CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Sinnlich, weiblich, flämisch: frauenbilder rund um Rubens

Sensual, female, Flemish: Rubens and his circle's images of women Exhibition: 6 August - 13 December 2009

Information from the museum, 22 July 2007

Three outstanding masterpieces by Pieter Paul Rubens formed the
starting-point for this presentation: The “Fur Coat”, Cimon and
, and his Self Portrait. For the first time these paintings are presented in the context of works by contemporary Flemish artists that
have not been shown in the Gallery for a long time, either because of
their size or a lack of wall-space.

Rubens’ sensual rendering of his ideal of female beauty has greatly
influenced our idea of baroque exuberance in the context of catholic
Flanders; it was also of seminal importance for his contemporaries.
However, there were also other ideals of female beauty – as documented
here – that illustrate the different roles played by women in mythology,
everyday life, and religion.

The authors of these different ideas about feminine beauty and female
types were almost always men; the models were created, so to speak, from
a male vantage-point – represented in the exhibition by two portraits by
Rubens and van Dyck, respectively. This makes the show’s only picture
painted by a woman even more important: Michaelina Woutiers courageously
depicted herself with bared breast in the retinue of Bacchus. For this
she selected a cool, classical expression, and did not shy away from
using a large format.

Inspired by a picture of a Flemish collection of artworks and
curiosities, the paintings are presented together with Kunstkammer
objects. Modern visitors are thus confronted with a – for them –
surprising, challenging opulence. Even if Flemish seventeenth-century
“gallery-pictures” depict imaginary collections, they document
contemporary ideals of presenting art; their cramped arrangement
remained the standard for hanging paintings until the early twentieth