The Mauritshuis, under Refurbishment, Exhibits at the Gemeentemuseum

1. Palace Housing The Mauritshuis
The Hague
Photo : Didier Rykner

The Mauritshuis had already been renovated about twenty-five years ago and we still remember how, in 1986, the Grand Palais had welcomed an exhibition of 57 of its masterpieces (De Rembrandt à Vermeer).
Having become too cramped in its historic building, a small palace on the shore (ill. 1), the museum closed recently for a two-year refurbishment which is to double its exhibition area (we hope it will not follow the example of the Rijksmuseum which is supposed to reopen in 2013, thus totaling ten years of repairs).

An adjacent building has been added and will be connected through an underground access. We cannot evaluate the project as we have no details on it. However, we should point out that the museum’s main entrance, already transferred to one of the sides previously, will be accessed below ground. Alas, this has become the trend in renovated museums, ignoring the architectural structure of the buildings. An entrance is designed by an architect for people to... enter the building. We find it strange that there need be a reminder.

2. Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)
The Goldfinch, 1654
Oil on Panel - 33.5 x 22.8 cm
The Hague, Mauritshuis
Photo : Mauritshuis

Furthermore, the press release states that, in order to install a climate control system, all of the windows will be replaced and that the building will have to be entirely emptied, including its painted ceilings and fireplace mantels ! This announcement is cause for concern (let us remember that the Mauritshuis houses notably décors by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini). We hope due care will be taken in carrying out this delicate work.

In the meantime, about one hundred paintings are being exhibited at the Gemeentemuseum in a show which is to last two years. This exhibition, staged in an understated and effective way, which is essentially thematic, presents masterpieces in the collection, two of which however - The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (ill. 2) and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring will not linger for long : they are to leave on a traveling and paying exhibition which is to help pay the bill. Of course, the show will include a visit to Japan and the High Museum in Atlanta, the American museum which chooses to spend its money on renting exhibitions rather than on purchasing works [1].
These paying exhibitions are justified here (the museum is closed and many paintings are still on view at The Hague [2]), but it is always a shame to see works rented out when they could be on loan.

3. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson, 1632
Oil on Canvas - 170 x 217 cm
The Hague, Mauritshuis
Photo : Mauritshuis

4. Paulus Potter (1597-1652)
Bull, 1647
Oil on Canvas - 236 x 339 cm
The Hague, Mauritshuis
Photo : Mauritshuis

While the Gemeentemuseum and its very important modern art collection are already a must for anyone visiting The Hague, it is now even more imperative as Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt (ill. 3), A View of Delft by Vermeer and a selection of works from the 17th century Flemish school along with a very complete overview of the Dutch Golden Age will be exhibited for a period of two years. Besides a few paintings preceding the Golden Age (notably Hans Holbein), these include Paulus Potter (ill. 4), Jan Steen, Meidert Hobbema and Frans Hals. Missing from the roll call will be Jacob van Ruysdael and Jan van Goyen who will leave for Japan.

Visitor information : The Hague, Gemeentmuseum, Stadhouderslaan 41, 2517 HV The Hague. Tel : +31 070-3381111. Open every day except Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission : 13.50€.

An album entitled Masters from the Mauritshuis which includes some of the paintings on view at the exhibition was published for the occasion (in Dutch and English). To go to The Hague from Paris, take the Thalys, then change in Rotterdam.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 14 mai 2012


[1] To be fair, it also buys works but could have a much more important collection if it preferred acquisitions to rentals...

[2] Besides the Gemeentemuseum, the Prince William V Gallery has been showing works from the Mauritshuis for a long time.

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