Michaelina Wautier

A garland of flowers

Look closely and you will see that this colourful floral wreath (a garland) is suspended between two animal skulls. A butterfly hovers peacefully above. In all likelihood, this still life is one of a pair, as there is a similar work in an American private collection. Both paintings are signed and dated.

These are the only known still lifes by Michaelina Wautier (Mons 1604 – Brussels 1689). Wautier was the only daughter in an affluent Belgian family of nine children, and an exceptionally talented painter. As well as still lifes, Wautier also painted portraits, everyday scenes, and religious and mythological subjects. Her stylistic range, coupled with her anatomically accurate representation of naked men, were exceptional for a female painter in the 17th century.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Wautier's artistic career did not begin until her late 30s, when she moved to Brussels. She dedicated herself entirely to her art, never married, and lived with her brother Charles, who was also a painter, right up until her death in 1689. Although Wautier enjoyed a very successful career, with many aristocratic patrons, she was largely forgotten after her death. Many of her paintings were even wrongly attributed to male artists, including her brother Charles. Not until the end of the 20th century was Wautier's incredible oeuvre rediscovered and, in 2018, a big monographic exhibition at the MAS in Antwerp restored her well-deserved reputation.

Practical information

Title
A garland of flowers, suspended between two animal skulls, a butterfly above
Artist Michaelina Wautier
Date 1652
Material Oil on panel
Size 42 x 57 cm
On loan Private collection

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