"Images of women artists were sometimes the result of cross-fertilization, to give a new look or a new meaning, to the conventions developed to represent women belonging to the family, as marriageable daughters, dutiful wives, and unassuming widows, by reference to the iconography of the artist. However these had to be carefully guaged because this iconography was largely masculine. The portrait inscribed by Caterina Van Hemessen, for example, had to show her as decorous daughter of the Hemessen family and yet proclaim her skill as painter.
"Caterina represented herself in plain clothing and with a solemn expression, perhaps to refuse readings of her image as nubile maiden, looking attractive. Like portraits of young male artists, the image included an inscription in Latin: "Caterina of the Hemessen family, aged twenty: I painted myself, 1548." However, it was unlike any other portrait of a contemporary artist, male or female, in that she showed herself in the act of painting her portrait at her easel.
"While Ludger tom Ring the Younger had painted himself in 1547 with his palette and his brush in hand, he had not shown himself actually at work at his easel. This unprecedented choice suggests what extreme measures needed to be taken to insist that Caterina had really painted herself, and it is possible that she drew on the convention of manuscript illustrations in the Netherlands and Northern France of portraying the ancient Roman painter Marcia. For instance, the Mostyn manuscript of Boccaccio's De mulierbus claris, dated about 1475, shows Marcia making one of her self-portraits and standing at her easel." [Illustrated left (detail)].