A visit to the Mauritshuis

DSC03043 (2)

The Wednesday morning of our break in Amsterdam we took the bus to Amsterdam Zuid station and boarded a train to Den Haag. It’s a relatively short journey and 45 minutes later we’d arrived. A 15 minute walk took us to our destination – the Mauritshuis museum.  It’s quite an impressive Dutch Classicist building, constructed between 1636 and 1641 as a private house for John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen. In 1820, it was bought by the Dutch state for the purpose of housing the Royal Cabinet of Paintings and was opened to the public in 1822.

It’s collection is outstanding. It’s relatively small compared to those of the big galleries in London and Paris, but what a collection it is.

DSC03072

When we arrived outside the building, I thought it looked too small to house all the paintings plus the reception, bookshop, café etc. However the entry in the courtyard takes you down into the reception area which is under the courtyard which also connects to another building across the road where there’s gallery space for temporary exhibitions and where the restaurant is located. During most of the year I reckon the museum would be very busy, but as we were visiting during a cold February day it wasn’t particularly crowded and we had no problem viewing the paintings.

The permanent collection is housed in the original building. My expectations were high and I was worried I might be disappointed, but that was definitely not the case. It more than lived up to my expectations Here are  some of the highlights.

Johannes Vermeer was born and lived just a few miles away in Delpht. There’s on 34 of his paintings known to exist and the Mauritshuis has 3 of them. He’s best known for his genre paintings of domestic interior scenes of middle-class life, but none of the works in the Mauritshuis’ collection fall into this category

I’d been eagerly anticipating seeing this beautiful little painting – Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Stunning

DSC03050

It’s a tronie, not a true portrait of a known individual but a painting of an anonymous individual to portray facial expressions and/or a character in costume. If we’d visited a few days later we wouldn’t have been able to see her, at least not properly. A few days after our visit she was removed from display for a technical examination. This is being done in public view in a special enclosure with glass panels. It would have been interesting to see the researchers at work, but I’d have been disappointed not to have had a proper view of this masterpiece.

The progress of the examination and research can be followed on a blog by Abbie Vandivere, head researcher for the project.

The collection also includes his landscape, View of Delft

DSC03045

Another outstanding painting, finely detailed with a real feel for light, an impressive cloudy sky and subtle reflections in the water.

The third Vermeer is an early painting, one of only two “history” paintings by him, Diana and her Nymphs, portraying a mythological scene.

DSC03051

This was the least favourite of all the Vermeer’s that I’ve seen (After visiting the Mauritshuis I reckon I’ve seen 22 of them). It’s certainly beautifuly painted, but it doesn’t have the appeal of his more intimate works.

In the next room there was this beautiful little painting

DSC03046 (2)

The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. It’s become well known as it features in a best selling novel by Donna Tarrt. But it more than stands alone on it’s own merits. Fabritius was a pupil of Rembrandt and would probably be much better known if he hadn’t been one of several hundred people killed when the Delpht powder magazine exploded creating devastation in the town.

And speaking of Rembrandt, the Mauritshuis have an excellent selection of his works including this one

DSC03048

the painting that made his reputation The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

Here’s a few more

DSC03052

DSC03054

DSC03073

There were paintings by other Dutch Golden Age painters, including a favourite of mine, Gerard ter Borch

DSC03049

Gabriel Metsu

IMG_5674

Jan Steen

IMG_5685

Hendrick Avercamp

IMG_5700

Other artists in the collection include

Ruebens

DSC03065

Van Dyke

DSC03063

Hans Holbein – this is his portrait of Jane Seymour

IMG_5694

and Pieter Claesz

IMG_5703

The collection doesn’t include any modern works, except for two beautifully painted murals on the ceiling of the top floor

DSC03057

Icarus Atlanticus: Allegory of Human Vanity, and Icarus Atlanticus: Allegory of the Working Man  painted by Ger Lataster in 1987.

There were also a number of the flower paintings that were popular during the Golden Age. I preferred the live displays

DSC03069

14 thoughts on “A visit to the Mauritshuis

  1. I visited here many years ago when John was at a conference in Delft and I spent the days exploring by myself. I’m sure we’ll visit together someday as we work our way through daytrips from Amsterdam. The Goldfinch visited Edinburgh last year, or the year before, and we saw it then. Exquisite. Seeing Jane Seymour reminds me of my shock coming across Holbein’s Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell on either side of a fireplace in the Frick Collection in New York. I’d looked at them in probably every book about the Tudors I’d ever picked up and if I’d had to guess would have said they were in the National Gallery. It was awe-inspiring to see them for real.

    • It’s good to have the opportunity to travel accompanying your other half. You get to look around while he’s working!!
      I can understand your shock at the Frick, but I reckon people from other countries feel the same visiting UK galleries and seeing their compatriots portrayed in paintings

      • Not something I do much these days – his visits are too fleeting. Re the Frick, totally agree though there was the added shock here of discovering they had belonged to a private collector.

  2. Great display. We were able to see many of the impressionist painters in the Orangery in Paris before they moved to the former train station. It was much more lovely, intimate and personal than the large galleries/museums.

    • Do you mean the Jeu de Palme? That used to be the main Impressionist Gallery before they opened the Gare d’Orsay. We visited ourelves years ago during our first visit to Paris when my wife (girlfriend then!) was starting to educate me about art. I remember being knocked out by the paintings and also that it was fairly crowded.
      The last couple of times we were in Paris we visited the Orangery to see the Monet waterlillies which are beautifully displayed in specially built galleries. They also have a good collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings.
      Like you I prefer smaller galleries and a favourite in paris is the Marmottan where they have some great Impressionist paintings – particularly by Monet (including Impression sunrise) and paintings from Giverney. They also have a good collection of paintings by Berthe Morisot. Have you been there?

      • Orangery and Jeu de Palme are directly across from each other on either side of the Tuilleries (we’ve been to Paris quite a few times over the years so know it well – mmm, not been for a while. Think we need to organise a trip soon I think! 🤔)

      • Himself would like that, me? Well, would rather meet up in Amsterdam. The Tuilleries always smelled like dog poo to me. I know, I should love it and have returned one other time with kids and more family, kids all under 8…not as fun.

  3. I don’t think we’ve been there…it was a long honeymoon trip and I have to look into the albums, but I remember really liking the Orangery and the name-probably why it stuck-simple mind et al. But I remember seeing some impressionists and totally forgetting the water lilies. Ooops, guess we’d best go back some day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.