Arts & Entertainment

Rembrandt self-portrait returns to Netherlands for Mauritshuis bicentenary

By Imane Rachidi

The Hague, Netherlands, Oct 1 (EFE).- A 1658 self-portrait by Rembrandt and ‘Officer and Laughing Girl’ by Johannes Vermeer, are two of the ten masterpieces that have traveled from Fifth Avenue in New York to the Mauritshuis in The Hague for the first time in over a century for an exhibition that marks the 200 year anniversary of the Dutch museum.

A dozen paintings left Europe “in or before 1919,” curator of the Mauritshuis, Quentin Buvelot, tells Efe.

The crowning piece is Rembrandt’s acclaimed Self-Portrait, a painting of exceptional quality and deemed by experts as one of the most impressive by the Dutch Baroque master.

“Rembrandt is almost presenting himself as a king. It is larger than a life painting. I really love this particular self portrait. If you think of a self portrait it’s really very famous, also, and that painting was last seen in Europe in the 19th century, in 1899, at an exhibition in London in the Royal Academy,” says Buvelot.

The canvas, which the Dutch artist painted aged 52 just after he had declared himself bankrupt, left the Netherlands over two centuries ago.

In the painting, Rembrandt depicts himself like a famous person sporting a tunic in a shiny golden fabric and oriental details that he added to his garments. He does not wear a hat or cap, nor does he hold a painter’s palette, just a cane in one hand.

The artwork has been loaned by the Manhattan art museum that exhibits the collection of coal and steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919).

The iconic piece has now taken pride of place at ‘The Masters of Manhattan’ show in Mauritshuis until January 15.

Frick’s will detailed instructions his collection should not be exhibited in any other museum but the Frick Collection has made an exception by allowing them to go to Europe during the renovation of the Manhattan museum building overlooking Central Park.

“Henry Clay Frick was a famous entrepreneur, he had the means to buy important old master paintings and they were all acquired around 1900, so when he died in 1919 he left these paintings to the public. Only in 1935 it became a museum, but these paintings have never left the building since that time,” adds Buvelot.

Most of the Frick Collection has temporarily moved to the Frick Madison Building, which is down the street from its usual home.

“We were allowed to select a number of Dutch paintings from the Frick Collection and these are paintings that are widely known and admired, but only seen by people that have actually visited New York,” he explains.

Nine of the selected pieces have not been shown in Europe since they were sent to the United States more than a century ago, including “Officer and Laughing Girl” (1657), by Johannes Vermeer, and “Portrait of a Man” (1660), by Fran Hals.

For Buvelot, this loan “is sort of like our jubilee” because the Dutch art gallery is marking its bicentennial and, like the Frick Collection, the Mauritshuis was also built on what was originally a residential property, the house of Johan Maurits, governor of Dutch Brazil in the 17th century, a controversial figure for his vital role in the transatlantic slave trade.


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