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
Iphigenia, 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