Karen Hearn presents “Big-Bellied Women: Portraying Pregnancy in 16th– and 17th-Century England”
Anthony van Dyck, Queen Henrietta Maria (detail), 1636, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bequest of Mrs Charles Wrightsman in honor of Annette de la Renta, 2019
“Big-Bellied Women: Portraying Pregnancy in 16th– and 17th-Century England”
Karen Hearn, former curator at the Tate Britain and a world-renowned expert on British portraiture currently teaching at University College London, reflects on images of pregnant women from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She contends that many images did, contrary to previous thought, portray women as overtly pregnant and for a variety of motivations.
This lecture is free and open to the public. ASL interpretation and live captioning available. Galleries remain open until 9 pm.
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Though many early modern women spent much of their lives in a state of pregnancy, their pregnancies are seldom made apparent in surviving portraits. Comprising material from the fifteenth century to the present day, Portraying Pregnancy considers the different ways in which a sitter’s pregnancy was, or was not, visibly represented to the viewer.
Over a span of more than five hundred years, art historian Karen Hearn looks at representations of pregnancy through the ages and interrogates how the social mores and preoccupations of different periods affected the ways in which pregnant women were visually depicted. Exploring different religious, cultural, and historical settings, Hearn reveals how portrayals of pregnancy have changed over time and across contexts. Some portraits reinforce an “ideal” female role while others celebrate fertility or assert shock value. Eighty color images accompany Hearn’s extensive and illuminating history, including painted portraits, drawings, miniatures, prints, photographs, sculpture, textiles, and objects.
Paul Holberton Publishing, 112 pages, Buy this book