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.



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

Research Interests

  • Northern European Art
  • Dissemination of images
  • Marian devotion
  • The agency and reception of works of art
  • Patronage
  • Meaning and manipulation of materials

Professional Experience

  • Print Room Assistant, The Courtauld Gallery, London (2017-present)
  • Curatorial Project Assistant, Mauritshuis, The Hague (2016-2017)
  • MuSe Ittleson Foundation Curatorial Graduate Intern, The Robert Lehman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2015)
  • Curatorial Graduate Intern, Groeningemuseum, Bruges (2014-2015)


  • Teaching Assistant, BA1 Foundations: The Physical History of the Work of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Spring 2019)
  • Teaching Assistant, MA Core Methodologies, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Autumn 2018­)

Other Academic Activities

  • Participant, Rijksmuseum & RKD Summer School: ‘Northern Renaissance: Collections, Research and Recent Developments’ (August 2019)
  • Palaeography Course, The Institute of Historical Research (2017-2018)
  • Research Associate, Painting Pairs Programme, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2017-2018)
  • Participant, Summer Course for the Study of the Arts in Flanders: ‘Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture in the Low Countries’, Museum M-Leuven and Vlaamse Kunstcollectie (June 2017)
  • Member of the Works on Paper Study Group, Graphic Arts Group, Historians of Netherlandish Art, International Council of Museums, Renaissance Society of America, Vereniging voor Nederlandse Kunsthistorici

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

Conference Papers

  • ‘Examining the role of prints in the proliferation of the Virgin with Fifteen Symbols iconography’, Message, Messenger, or False Friend? Early Modern Print as Intermediary, International Workshop organised by SACRIMA, Munich (28-29 June 2019)
  • ‘From abstract idea to scaled-up image: the case of the Virgin with Fifteen Symbols’, Scaling the Middle Ages: Size and Scale in Medieval Art, Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (8 February 2019)
  • ‘‘The artful work which exceeds all other paintings’: The Van Maelbeke Madonna’,  Study Day: The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus and Jan Vos, The Frick Collection, New York (17 December 2018)