Her name is not so well known, yet Mons inhabitant Michaelina Wautier marked the 17th century with her baroque traits and rebellious spirit.
On Tuesday, nearly Three and a half centuries later, Google paid tribute to her on its home page. The artwork is on show on the homepage for 24 hours in Belgium, Luxemburg, Iceland, and Croatia.
Being a woman and making a name for herself as an artist alongside eminent painters like Rubens, Van Dyck or Jordaens? That was nearly a mission impossible for Wautier (1604-1689). Thirty or so of her canvasses have nonetheless journeyed across the centuries to bear witness to her audacity and technique.
Wautier is a mystery. It is known that she was born in Mons, then established herself a little after 1640 in Brussels with her brother Charles, also a painter; but her life has hardly been documented. Over the centuries, her work was attributed to other, male artists.
The artist, in any case, distinguished herself through the diversity of the subjects she approached: apart from portraits and mythological and religious scenes, Wautier painted historical events in large format. One of her major works was called ‘The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine’. She painted daily life, as well as male nudes.
“Painting nude men did not bear thinking about for a woman at that time; it bears witness to a great audacity,” art historian Katlijne Van der Stighelen, who recently rediscovered the artist’s paintings, emphasised. “She painted some magnificent works, more than a hundred years before the female sex was admitted into the art academies.”
A nonconformist figure, “Michaelina Wautier was unable to promote herself, and her name has somewhat fallen into oblivion,” Google spokesman Michiel Sallaets added.
After Chantal Akerman last year, Wautier is the second great woman of Belgian origin to be honoured by Google through a special doodle.
The Brussels Times