PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — At the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, a talented 17th century female painter is finally getting the recognition she deserves — thanks in large part to a cohort of graduate students at Brown University.
Six doctoral students from Brown played a major role in curating “Michaelina Wautier and ‘The Five Senses’: Innovation in 17th-Century Flemish Painting,” an exhibition on view at MFA Boston now through Fall 2023. As part of a graduate practicum course in art history, the students worked alongside curators and experts at the MFA’s Center for Netherlandish Art to understand and contextualize Wautier’s role at the forefront of artistic innovation in Flanders and beyond.
Wautier lived and painted in Brussels in the mid-1600s — but despite her clear and exceptional talent, she fell into obscurity for centuries, overshadowed by male contemporaries such as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Art historians have only recently discovered Wautier and drawn attention to her significance in their scholarly writing, leading to soaring prices on her work at auctions and increased interest from museum curators across the globe. MFA Boston is the first museum in North America to dedicate a gallery to her work.
“We wanted to give Michaelina Wautier the spotlight she deserves, which was taken away from her for so long,” said Regina Noto, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in history of art and architecture at Brown and one of the MFA exhibition’s curators. “It was exciting to tell a clear, feminist story about women and their value in art — not just as muses or models, but as leading creators themselves.”