Past Exhibition, Spring 2024

Catharina van Hemessen, Scourging of Christ, Oil Colors on Wood Panel, 1556, Private Collection

Catharina van Hemessen, Scourging of Christ, Oil on Wood Panel, 1556, private collection

Rediscovering Catharina van Hemessen’s Scourging of Christ: Women Artists, Patrons, and Rulers in Renaissance Europe

Dates: Mar. 7 - Apr. 30, 2024

University of Cincinnati
DAAP Library Teaching Gallery

This exhibition focuses on the Netherlandish painter Catharina van Hemessen’s Scourging of Christ, a jewel-like devotional work signed by the most famous woman artist of the Northern Renaissance. Rarely on public display, this dynamic yet little-known narrative panel reveals Catharina’s originality, refined color palette, and adept rendering of the human form. The painting, recently redated to 1556 through technical examination, unites the exhibition’s three themes—female artists, female patrons and collectors, and female rulers in Renaissance Europe (ca. 1400-1600). Indeed, the Scourging of Christ is the only signed work by Catharina van Hemessen that could have been executed for her patron Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands, who in 1556 invited the painter to the Habsburg court in Spain.

In the first part of the exhibition, prints and illustrated books by Albrecht Dürer, Andreas Vesalius, and others suggest the kinds of representations and theoretical knowledge that may have inspired Catharina van Hemessen when she painted the Scourging of Christ, for she, unlike her male contemporaries, almost certainly would not have been able to study the male body from life. In the second part pf the exhibition, Renaissance artists, patrons, and rulers including Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, and Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, are represented by portrait prints, illuminated manuscripts, and other works.

Linking these two parts of the exhibition is a miniature painting of the Italian author Boccaccio, since his bestseller, Famous Women, publicized the lives of more than 100 exemplary women, including artists and rulers from antiquity through the 14th century. His text inspired later writers such as Christine de Pizan, who celebrated contemporary female illuminators in 15th-century Paris, and Giorgio Vasari, who in the 1568 edition of his book on excellent artists praised Catharina van Hemessen herself.

Drawn from the University of Cincinnati Libraries and a private collection, the artworks, manuscripts, and books in this exhibition highlight the meaningful roles played by women in European art, society, and politics during the 15th and 16th centuries. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, these objects stand as visual and material testaments to the enduring contributions of women at the beginning of the modern era.

Gallery Talks and Reception

March 18, 1:00-1:30pm, Exhibition Gallery Talk
“Women Artists, Patrons, and Rulers in Renaissance Europe: Introduction to the Exhibition,” DAAP Library (across from Circulation desk), Christopher Platts (University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Art History and exhibition co-curator)

March 28, 12:30-1:00pm, Exhibition Gallery Talk
“Catharina van Hemessen’s Scourging of Christ: Painting Materials and Techniques in Sixteenth-century Europe,” DAAP Library (across from Circulation desk), Michael Ruzga (Director and Head of Conservation, Fine Arts Conservation, Inc. and exhibition co-curator)

April 3, 12:30-1:00pm, Exhibition Gallery Talk
“Forgotten Women Artists in Renaissance and Early Baroque Europe,” DAAP Library (large seminar room), Lauren Tate (University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Art History)

April 4, 4:00-6:00pm, Exhibition Reception and Gallery Talk
Reception: 4:30-6:00pm; Gallery Talk: “Women Artists, Patrons, and Rulers in Renaissance Europe: Introduction to the Exhibition", 4:00-4:30pm, DAAP Library (across from Circulation desk), Christopher Platts (University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Art History and exhibition co-curator)

Exhibition Texts and Images of the Artworks

Credits and Acknowledgements

This exhibition was curated by Elizabeth Meyer, Head Librarian of the Robert A. Deshon and Karl J. Schlachter Library for Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning Library; Christopher Platts, Assistant Professor of Art History at University of Cincinnati DAAP; and Michael Ruzga, Director and Head of Conservation, Fine Arts Conservation, Inc.

Lenders to the exhibition: University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati Health Sciences Library, University of Cincinnati DAAP Library, and a private collection.

The curators would like to thank:

University of Cincinnati Libraries, especially Elizabeth Kiscaden and Melissa Norris
University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Book Library, especially Christopher Harter
University of Cincinnati Health Sciences Library, especially Sharon Purtee
University of Cincinnati DAAP Library, especially Cade Stevens, Emily Mutchler, Lucas Stewart, and
     Gabriel Willard
University of Cincinnati Libraries Preservation Lab, especially Jessica Ebert, Catarina Figueirinhas, and
     Holly Prochaska
University of Cincinnati DAAP Galleries, especially Aaron Cowan, Allyson Coffren, and Nick Rizkallah

Peter Bell, Cincinnati Art Museum
John Brackett, University of Cincinnati History Department
Maureen France and Peter Chamberlain, University of Cincinnati School of Design
Charlotte Gray, Independent Scholar
Angela Koenig and Melanie Schefft, University of Cincinnati News
Tamera Muente, Taft Museum of Art
Pam Rezai, University of Cincinnati DAAP Marketing and Publications
Marissa and Melanie Ruzga
Pietro Strobbia, University of Cincinnati Chemistry Department, and Lyndsay Kissell, Food and
     Drug Administration
Dan Sturmer and Craig Dietsch, University of Cincinnati Geosciences Department
Roger Wieck, The Morgan Library and Museum

Related Media and Contact Information

Interview with exhibition co-curator Christopher Platts on NPR Cincinnati Edition.

Article about the exhibition in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

For more information, contact Christopher Platts.