Sunday 29 May 2011

Whether A Christian Woman Should Be Educated

Talking of paper cuts - they have a long history and go back to the 16th century at least. One of the most intriguing is this intricate lace-like cut executed by Anna Maria von Schurman - if you look closely you can make out her interlaced insignia. Was this the work of an idle woman with nothing better to do than, as Germaine Greer might put it, waste time?
It would appear from her portrait that Anna Maria (1607-1678) indeed had a frivolous overfondness for lace. While that may be the case, she also had a piercing intellect. A Utrecht scholar, she was the first woman to gain a university degree in the Netherlands and her thoughts and writings were widely respected, even outside the Netherlands. She wrote a minutely argued treatise Whether a Christian Woman Should Be Educated; the method of her argumentation appears not only to rival but outdo those of her male contemporaries and to to read it is to gain an insight par excellence in the prevailing rhetoric of the time.
Some of the cut works were small feats of engineering as can be seen in this illustration where the woman holds up for admiration a three dimensional cut she has just completed. Note the scissors and paper snips on the surface before her. It is fabulous - oh what I would give to be able to do similar! Give her a round of applause everyone!
This last cut is from Amsterdam, its maker is unknown and it was cut in 1686. All these images can be found in Geknipt! a fabulously illustrated Dutch language book which is a precious gift of my friend Erica. The ISBN is 90-5730-517-8. The Museum Martena, Franeker, in the north Netherlands (on the route between Harlinger and Leeuwarden in Friesland) that has a special room reserved to Anna Maria von Schurman - to discover more, click here.


  1. Never seen anything like this. You have aroused my curiosity, they are beautiful. Thank ou, Rosanna

  2. I have done scherenschnitte myself, but not in awhile.
    Love the intricate pieces. I have some books with religious ones and done with large scissors, it just amazes me how they can do that.


  3. Fabulous post J, I did not know this story and found more about Anna on;