Catharina van Hemessen, born in 1548, is the most well-known female Dutch Renaissance painter. van Hemessen was raised and trained in painting by her father, a successful painter and art dealer in the Low Countries, Antwerp. Her work, portraits and miniatures, was patronised by mostly wealthy women. She made the most famous and also the oldest preserved self-portrait of a woman from the Netherlands; this painting, ‘Self-Portrait’, 1548, is owned by the Kunstmuseum in Basel.
However, we decided that an affluential artist such as van Hemessen would have taken on a patron who required a portrait of their authentic life. Male patrons of the era would often be painted with their most prized possessions – a pelt from their hunts, stolen fortunes from their colonising adventures, or maybe even their family, ha! Now, imagine a female patron arriving at the studio to have a very long sitting…. whilst she was menstruating.
We’ve selected ‘Portrait of a Woman’, by Catharina van Hemessen, completed in 1548, for our discussion on COMFORT. The original work is exhibited at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. As she chose to name the work ‘Portrait of a Woman’ we figured this was her broad stroke of females of the era. This piece is widely attributed to be another self-portrait of hers and we’ve reimagined that van Hemessen herself just said “eff it, I’m cramping entirely too much and I’m leaving in the water bottle.” We now encourage others to use artistic expression of their authentic lives to show our current narratives.
A self-portrait is art from a place of comfort.
We are the rebels that aim to break societal shackles to empower everyone in their menstrual journeys. We know that menstruation is a natural process that should not be shrouded in shame and secrecy. We denounce the patriarchal norms that limit opportunities during menstruation. We believe that menstrual cycles should not hinder anyone’s success, education, or work. We demand for the elimination of menstrual stigma and discrimination in all spheres of life.
We pledge to work towards creating a world where access to menstrual products and education is a basic human right regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or economic status. It is time to prioritise menstrual health and provide access to safe, hygienic, and sustainable menstrual products for all those in need.
We stand for complete menstrual wellness, not just for our physical health but for our mental and emotional health as well.
We must reclaim this sign of life-giving power. Menstruation is a strength, NOT a weakness. It is time to break the taboos.
We dare to create a world where menstruation is not just accepted, but celebrated. It is time to embrace it. We’re not here to skirt around the bush, we may joke about our flows (because we can), we’ll discuss gastrointestinal issues during our period, and you’re gonna see blood. We provide an intersectional space to feature every experience in menstruation.
We will use the discourse of art, literature, technology, humanities and public policy to effectively carry out our mission. We call on all anyone who isn’t afraid of breaking the status quo to stand with us in this movement towards menstrual wellness and empowerment.
This isn’t just a rebellion. This isn’t just a revolution. This is a renaissance.
This is OUR renaissance.
The Renaissance Period is a taboo-busting, digital platform providing all those who menstruate (and their allies!) with personalized options for their menstruation needs via subscription boxes (coming soon) and other relevant products, engaging content, and an inclusive community to support them.
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