A Space of Their Own

Mayken Verhulst

1518 – 1599

Active in: Belgium and the Netherlands
Alternate names: Marie Bessemers, Maaiken, Mayke, Meyken


Mayken Verhulst was born in Mechelen. Although not much is known about her, she has long been esteemed as one of the most important female artists active in the early modern Low Countries. In 1567, Lodovico Guicciardini described her as one of the four most important women artists. Verhulst worked in miniature, tempera, and watercolor. Two of her sisters were married to artists, and her marriage to the painter Pieter Coecke van Aelst brought her into contact with many other important artists. She was the mother-in-law of Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Verhulst appears to have continued working after her husband’s death in 1550, overseeing the publication of a large woodcut series Ces Moeurs et Fachons de Faire des Turcz, based on his tapestry design. She died in Mechelen in 1599 and no surviving works can be securely attributed to her.

Selected Works


DiFuria, Arthur J. “Towards an Understanding of Mayken Verhulst and Volcxken Diericx.” In Women Artists and Patrons in the Netherlands, 1500–1700, 157–77. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019.

Greer, Germaine. The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1979.

Guicciardini, Lodovico. Descrittione di Lodovico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino di tutti I Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore. 1567.

Meeus, H. “Printing Vernacular Translations in Sixteenth-century Antwerp.” Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 64 (2014): 108–37.

op de Beek, Jan. Mayken Verhulst (1518–1599): The Turkish Manners of an Artistic Lady. Mechelen: Museum Het Zotte Kunstkabinet, 2005.

Van Mander, Karel. Het Schilder-boeck. Haarlem, 1604.

“Verhulst, Mayken.” Oxford Art Online. https://doi-org.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T088820.