Knowing that I will likely not be able to see the unique Vermeer exhibition that opens today in Amsterdam, I visited the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague when I was recently in the Netherlands. It is one of my favorite museums in the world, and I can highly recommend it to all readers of this newsletter to visit it if you ever get the chance to go there.
The Mauritshuis exhibits some of the best-known paintings by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, and I know that for some people, it must be a dream come true to see some of his famous paintings in person. And I admit that I am a fan too. Over the years, I have used my visits abroad to see as many of his paintings as possible and have seen them in Amsterdam, London, New York City, Washington D.C., and Vienna. Still, I regret not being able to see so many of them together in Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
The new exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam offers a unique chance to see the largest-ever show of paintings by this famous 17th-century painter, noted for his mastery of capturing light and intimate domestic scenes. The exhibition, which debuts today and runs through June, includes contributions from museums in Germany, France, Japan, Britain, Ireland, and the United States.
I know that twenty-eight paintings may not sound like many, but Vermeer died at the age of 43, painted slowly, and not all his works have survived until this day. So experts believe this must be about half the paintings he has ever painted, and the exhibit shows three-quarters of those that still exist.
The Mauritshuis museum
So since I can't write to you about the Amsterdam exhibition, I can at least try to share my passion for the Mauritshuis museum and the Vermeers I saw there last month.
You will find The Mauritshuis in the center of The Hague, next to the parliament buildings. It was built between 1633 and 1644 as a private residence for Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen. During its construction, he was the governor of Dutch Brazil, a colony based around sugar and slavery. He used the money that he earned there to build his house in The Hague.
The architect behind the Mauritshuis was Jacob van Campen. His design was one of the first and purest examples of what is known as Dutch Classicism. The symmetry, tall pilasters, and tympanums on the façades are based on the architecture of the Greeks and Romans, lending the building its monumental air.
The Mauritshuis had an impressive interior with panelling made of tropical wood, murals depicting Brazilian landscapes, and large quantities of objects that Johan Maurits had brought back with him from Brazil. But in 1704, the interior was destroyed during a devastating fire. So the house was refurbished and given a new interior. A century later - in 1822 - it became a museum.
View of Delft, c.1660-1661
The cityscape from the 17th century that is most known is this one. It was painted by Vermeer in 1660 or 1661. The mix of light and shade, the gorgeous clouds in the sky, and the subtle reflections in the water make this image an outstanding masterpiece. Delft is visible from the south. The city has a calm atmosphere, and there is barely any wind. In his composition, Vermeer used three horizontal strips to represent the city, the sky, and the river, which reflects this tranquility. He painted the buildings a little bit nearer than they were.
If you nowadays drive from Rotterdam to Delft, the view is very different. But If you someday visit the Netherlands, I hope you can spend some time in Delft since the city is a well-preserved gem, and when you walk the streets past its narrow canals, you can easily imagine how Johannes Vermeer once walked in those same streets.
Girl with a Pearl Earring
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