Art History, Artists

Who was Joanna Koerten?

Joanna Koerten was Dutch artist. She worked with different medias as painting, drawing, embroidery, glass etching and wax modelling. But she is best known for her work as a silhouette cutter, the art of creating outline images from pieces of cut paper mounted on a contrasting background.

Papercut is a dainty craft, but it isn’t seen as a proper art. It’s very easy to overlook the dexterity required to make it. Using this media, she produced landscapes, seascapes, flowers, portraits and even religious scenes.

Joanna Koerten could cut portraits with the same precision that a painter and she knew her work could not be dismissed.

clipping by joanna koerten

When she started to cut portraits instead of landscapes, she chose to cut portraits of famous people, like emperors and kings. It was so different that these portraits made her famous internationally, some travellers went to Holland, Amsterdam, especially to see her work and buy it.

As she worked with paper, a very delicate material vulnerable to the elements, only fifteen of her works remain. But the existence of others can be inferred from descriptions in old auction lists.

intricate paper cutting of a hunting scene c1700- original in willet-holthuysen museum amsterdam
Hunting scene c.1700 (Willet-Holthuysen Museum, Amsterdam)


  • Peter the Great of Russia, Frederick Elector of Brandenburg, Johan de Witt and William III of England were some of her important clients.
  • Some of her works can be seen in the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal (Leiden), in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (The Hague), in Kasteel-Museum Sypesteyn (nl) (Loosdrecht) and in Westfries Museum (Hoorn).


If you want more information:

  • For a description of her oeuvre see: Catalogus van een overheerlijk konstkabinet papiere snykonst, door wylen Mejuffrouw Koerten, huisvrouw van wylen Adriaan Blok, met de schaar in papier gesneden (Amsterdam ca.1750).

6 thoughts on “Who was Joanna Koerten?”

  1. Fascinating! Women artists have always had to contend with that line between art and craft, but no one can deny that this is fine art. I’m happy to hear about an artist I hadn’t known about before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the comment! I’m really happy to introduce artists that have been overlooked by Art History. And thanks for reading the blog.


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