Charlotte Wytema

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Charlotte Wytema

PhD student

Thesis: ‘Tota Pulchra es’: the emergence, function and reception of the ‘Virgin with Fifteen Symbols’ imagery in France and the Southern Netherlands, 1477 – 1546

Supervised by Prof. Susie Nash

Funded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the VSB Fonds, and the Hendrik Muller Fonds (2017-2018); CHASE (2018-2020)

This thesis will explore the reasons behind the sudden appearance and the proliferation of works of art depicting the ‘Virgin with Fifteen Symbols’, an entirely new form of devotional imagery that emerged in France at the turn of the sixteenth century. Portraying the Virgin surrounded by fifteen objects that together symbolise her Immaculate Conception, it quickly proliferated across western Europe. Curiously, this remarkable phenomenon has never before been systematically studied. What was the imagery’s functioning within the social, religious and cultural practices surrounding Marian devotion in France and the southern Netherlands at the period? And what was its role within the wider theological dispute concerning the Immaculate Conception? Closely examining rich groups of objects with this imagery that present a range of media, scales, audiences and contexts, my study will examine why and for whom these captivating and under-studied artworks were made, and what their agency and reception was.




  • Courtauld Institute of Art
    2017-present: PhD Candidate
  • University of Groningen
    2013-2016: MA History of Art and Curatorial Studies
  • University of Groningen
    2009-2013: BA History of Art

Professional experience

  • Print Room Assistant, Courtauld Gallery
    Cataloging and research, collections care, delivering presentations (2017-present)
  • Curatorial Project Associate, Mauritshuis
    Assistant curator of the exhibition Neighbours: Portraits from Flanders 1400-1700 (2016-2017)
  • MuSe Ittleson Foundation Curatorial Graduate Intern, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
     (June – December 2015)
  • Curatorial Graduate Intern, the Groeningemuseum
    Curating the exhibition ‘The Bowet Hours. A Masterpiece for Bruges’ (2014-2015)

Research interests

  • Northern European art of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries
  • Dissemination of images
  • Marian devotion
  • The agency and reception of works of art
  • Patronage

Recent Publications

  • Edwin Buijsen, Katlijne Van der Stighelen and Charlotte Wytema, Zuiderburen. Portretten uit Vlaanderen 1400-1700, (Mauritshuis, The Hague), Zwolle 2017
  • Catalogue entry on an early sixteenth-century Netherlandish double-portrait, in Till-Holger Borchert and Koenraad Jonckheere (ed.), Faces Then: Renaissance portretten uit de Lage Landen, (Brussel, BOZAR), Brussel 2015, pp. 32-35, no. 14.
  • Catalogue entries on paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and sculpture, in Laurent Busine and Manfred Sellink (ed.), The Glory of Saint George. Man, Dragon, and Death, (Hornu, Musée des Arts Contemporains au Grand-Hornu), New Haven and London 2015

Other academic activities

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