THE HAGUE. A royal visit from Great Britain: from 29 September 2016 to 8 January 2017 the Mauritshuis in The Hague will exhibit a selection of the most important Dutch genre paintings from the British Royal Collection. The renowned Royal Collection, held in trust by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, includes highlights by famous painters such as Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681), Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), Gabriël Metsu (1629-1667) and Jan Steen (1626-1679). The highlight of the exhibition is ‘The Music Lesson’ (1660-1662) by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), announced mauritshuis.nl.
Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Mauritshuis: ‘Never before has such a large group of genre paintings from the British Royal Collection been on view in the Netherlands. It is a great honour to have them in the Mauritshuis for the duration of the exhibition.’
The Royal Collection has some of the most important holdings in the world. It owns many paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, and gives pride of place to its genre paintings, scenes that appear to be taken from everyday life. The exhibition ‘At Home in Holland: Vermeer and his Contemporaries from the British Royal Collection’ introduces the public to the ‘genre painting’, its many forms and the provocative symbolism it often conceals. These works are stunning in their variety, from simple farmhands gathered in an inn to elegant figures in rich interiors. Some of the everyday scenes carry a deeper, often moralistic meaning, which may be explicit or at times concealed. But in all of them, the artists portrayed the characters and their environments as skilfully as possible, which makes them even more attractive.
The exhibition covers a broad selection of the best Dutch genre paintings from the Royal Collection. It includes 22 paintings from the British Royal Collection and one from the collection of the Mauritshuis, ‘The Young Mother’ (1658) by Gerrit Dou. This painting was part of the British Royal Collection until about 1700, and came into Dutch ownership through King and Stadholder William III (1650-1702). The highlights of the exhibition are Johannes Vermeer’s ‘The Music Lesson’ and Jan Steen’s ‘A Woman at her Toilet’ (1663). Also featured are significant works by other grand masters of Dutch genre painting, such as Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Willem van Mieris (1662-1747) and Gabriël Metsu.
‘The Music Lesson’ is one of the rare 36 surviving works by Johannes Vermeer. This painting dates from 1660-1662, and shows a woman and a gentleman beside a virginal. Above the instrument hangs a mirror, which reflects the foot of Vermeer’s easel. Music is undoubtedly a symbol of love in this painting, and this is confirmed by the Latin motto on the virginal. The painting was acquired by King George III of England (1738-1820) in 1762, when it was attributed to Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635-1681). Only later was it recognised as a masterpiece by Vermeer.
The painting ‘The Music Lesson’ returns to the Netherlands this autumn for the first time in twenty years. This masterpiece, part of the British Royal Collection, was last on display in the Mauritshuis in 1996, as part of the major Johannes Vermeer exhibition.
Another highlight in the exhibition is a painting by Jan Steen, which dates from 1663. It was once known as ‘A Woman at Her Toilet’. It shows a young woman who, judging by the indents above her calves is pulling her stocking off as her eyes meet those of the viewer. As in Vermeer’s painting, the context can be understood as amorous. Such subjects were extremely popular in their day. Steen makes the point that the physical pleasures are transient by showing a skull in the door opening, under a lute with a broken string.
The Royal Collection and the Mauritshuis
The British Royal Collection is one of the largest and most important collections in the world and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. The Royal Collection and the Mauritshuis have much in common: both are royal collections and both contain a magnificent collection of Dutch masters of the Golden Age. King George IV of England was a key figure in the history of the Royal Collection. In the early decades of the nineteenth century he acquired many of the paintings which are now seen as jewels in the crown of the English royal collection. The foundations for the Mauritshuis collection were laid by the stadholders William IV and William V. Their descendant, King William I, bequeathed the collection to the Dutch state in 1816 and the museum still bears the name Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery.
The exhibition At Home in Holland: Vermeer and his Contemporaries from the British Royal Collection is a collaboration between Royal Collection Trust and the Mauritshuis. The exhibition was held at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, under the title ‘Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer’ from 13 November 2015 to 14 February 2016. It has been on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh until 17 July 2016. From Thursday, 29 September 2016, the paintings will be on view in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue in both English and Dutch, published by Royal Collection Trust, the Mauritshuis and Mercatorfonds. The catalogue was written by the exhibition’s curators, Desmond Shawe-Taylor (Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Royal Collection Trust) and Quentin Buvelot (Senior Curator at the Mauritshuis). ‘Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer’ is currently available in the shop at the Mauritshuis.
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The Mauritshuis is home to the Best of Dutch painting from the Golden Age. The compact, yet world-renowned collection, is situated in the heart of The Hague in The Netherlands, right next to the government centre. Masterpieces such as Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ (1665), ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), ‘The Goldfinch by Fabritius’ (1654) and ‘The Bull’ (1647) by Paulus Potter (1625-1654) are on permanent display in the intimate rooms of this seventeenth-century monument.
More than two hundred top works from Dutch and Flemish masters are on display in the historic yet intimate interior, with its silken wall covering, sparkling chandeliers and monumental painted ceilings. Genre paintings by Jan Steen, landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael (c.1629-1682), still lifes by Adriaen Coorte (ca.1665 – after 1707) and portraits by Rubens (1577-1640) offer a rich and varied representation of the best of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting.
Royal Collection Trust
Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The Queen. Income generated from admissions and from associated commercial activities contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational programmes. Royal Collection Trust’s work is undertaken without public funding of any kind.
The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. It comprises almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts, and is spread among some 14 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public. The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the nation, and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual.
At The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh and in the Drawings Gallery at Windsor Castle, aspects of the Collection are displayed in a programme of temporary exhibitions. Many works from the Collection are on long-term loan to institutions throughout the UK, and short-term loans are frequently made to exhibitions around the world as part of a commitment to public access and to show the Collection in new contexts.