CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Women in Rubens’s Life (Rubens Talk Series)

Online event: 23 June 2021

Date: Wednesday 23 June 2021
Times: 19:00 to 20:00 BST, and available to view for one week thereafter
Location: Zoom Webinar (Online)
Speakers: Prof Nils BĂŒettner, Professor of Art History, State Academy of Arts Stuttgart and Dr Cordula van Wyhe, Senior Lecturer in Art History, University of York

Talk Description: Rubens’s diplomatic and artistic career was very closely linked to the women who were influential in the political arena both at home and abroad, including the Archduchess Isabella, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and Marie de‘ Medicis, regent queen of France. They had a taste for daring and spectacular art works that celebrated their religion, family, achievements, and authority. Their commissions gave Rubens opportunities and immense challenges, perhaps the greatest of his entire career. Equally, Rubens’s two wives, Isabella Brant and Helena Fourment, contributed to his success in the world of art and politics. They helped to network Rubens within the urban patrician class in Antwerp, and their literacy in luxury and fashion brought to his domestic and intimate life the unique flavour of urban upper-class chic.

Rubens is known as the painter of voluptuous, fleshy women, but did moral etiquette in Catholic Antwerp actually allow a painter to study female anatomy from life? If Catholicism did not permit women to act as models and yet placed the Virgin Mary at the centre of religious devotion, then how did Rubens’s interest in the anatomy and sensuality of the female body inform his paintings of the Virgin? If Rubens’s wives did not pose for him in the nude, how can we trace their presence in his art?

In conversation, Nils BĂŒttner and Cordula van Wyhe will reveal how Rubens’s work and life were deeply dependent on women as sovereigns, patrons, wives, and divinities.

About the Speakers: Nils BĂŒettner is Professor of Art History at the State Academy of Arts Stuttgart, member of the Centrum Rubenianum vzw, and Secretary of the Editorial Board of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. His research interests lie in the visual culture of Germany and the Netherlands from the 15th to 17th centuries. He has written monographs on Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as a history of landscape painting and books on the history of drawings and prints. He has also written numerous catalogue essays and was curator of several exhibitions.

Cordula van Wyhe is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of York. She received her PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and subsequently, held the Speelman-Newton Fellowship in Netherlandish Art, Wolfson College Cambridge until 2005. Her research interests lie in early modern cultural history with particular reference to the 17th-century Low Countries. Major interests include the history of dress (including fashion), Rubens, religious and political imagery, royal patronage, and early modern court culture. Among specialist articles, she has edited books on female monasticism and sovereignty, and on Rubens and the human body.

Rubens Talk Series, 9 June to 21 July: To accompany the Wallace Collection’s new exhibition, Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes, this series of seven evening talks will explore different aspects of Rubens’s extraordinary life and achievements, the fascinating social, cultural and economic circumstances of his age, and his enduring artistic legacy.

For more information and to register, see

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