The research project Hive Mind proposes a community- and institution-based approach to the study of early modern women and of their contributions to the arts and culture of the Low Countries. Doing so will allow the women to claim their place as leading, influential participants in early modern artistic and cultural practices and exchanges.
The point of departure for the project is the group of women proximate to the still-life painter Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). The group includes Rachel’s sister, Anna (1666-1741), as well as Maria Moninckx (1676-1757), Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), Johanna Helena Herolt (1668-after 1723), Dorothea Maria Merian-Gsell (1678-1743), Alida Withoos (1659-1730), Cornelia de Rijck (1653-1726), Catharina Backer (1689-1766), and Catharina Lintheimer (1685–1748). By exploring the relationships amongst these women and their roles in that network, the project will uncover the various ways in which the women influenced each other, helped each other develop technically, shared resources, competed with each other, and positioned themselves with patrons. While recognizing the limits imposed upon early modern women due to their gender, this project aims to demonstrate the significance of their contributions and the processes through which they made them. Two key objectives of the project are to modify the historiography of early modern art history in the Low Countries in a fundamental way; and to offer a reproducible analytical framework and methodology to explore the contributions of women and other marginalized actors in the art world across time periods and geographical boundaries.