Catharina van Hemessen: Did Sexism Keep Her from Becoming Famous?


Catharina van Hemessen (Antwerp, c. 1527/1528-after 1578) was a Flemish painter, daughter of Jan Sanders van Hemessen. Specializing in portraits, she highlights her own Self-portrait of her before the easel dated 1548 (Basel Museum of Art and St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum), the first known female self-portrait of her .

Catharina van Hemessen

Biography and work Catharina van Hemessen

Formed probably with her father, she enjoyed the protection of Mary of Hungary, sister of Emperor Charles V and governor of the Netherlands. In 1554 she married Christian de Morien, organist of the Antwerp Cathedral, and it is possible that she abandoned painting from this moment on, as there are no known paintings signed after this date. After Maria resigned from the government of the Netherlands, in 1556, the spouses traveled with her court to Spain. In 1558 the governor died in Cigales (Valladolid) leaving Catharina a splendid reward according to Ludovico Guicciardini, who mentions her as an outstanding artist and is still alive in his Descrittione (…) di tutti i Paesi Bassi (1566).

Some small portraits of Catharina van Hemessen are known to be signed, mostly female and on a neutral background, dated between 1548, such as her own self-portrait or the portrait of a young woman playing the virginal (Cologne, Germany, Wallraf-Richartz Museum), signed “Caterina de Hemessen Pingebat 1548. Aetatis Suae 22”, and 1552, the year in which the portrait of a London man appears dated, The National Gallery, signed in capitals “catharina. filla / ioannis de hemes / sen pingebat /.1552. no2 Tendilla Altarpiece, Cincinnati Art Museum.

Catharina van Hemessen could have had some participation in the so-called Tendilla altarpiece (Cincinnati Art Museum), from the extinct Jerome monastery of Santa Ana in the aforementioned town of Alcarria, attributed by Max J. Friedländer to Jan Sanders van Hemessen. The wooden carved shields at the top of the altarpiece correspond to the Arellano and the Sotomayor, the first related to the Mendoza, patrons of a chapel in the monastery.3 Work of the workshop, in which more than one hand is distinguished, the The altarpiece could have been painted around 1550 and the paintings of the central body and the predella have been related to Catharina.4


Translated from the Spanish Available under the Licencia Creative Commons Atribución Compartir Igual 3.0

By Translator Mike



Why learn another language when we can bring you lousy translations!