About the Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis' art collection was originally purchased by father and son stadtholders Willem IV and Willem V. At the beginning of the 19th century, the collection ended up with their successor: King Willem I who handed over a large part of the family collection, including the Rembrandts, to the young Kingdom of the Netherlands, forming the basis for several of the Netherlands’ major museums, including the Rijksmuseum.
Spotting a real Rembrandt
Abraham Bredius was the director of the Mauritshuis from 1889 to 1909 and was known as a Rembrandt connoisseur. He extensively researched Rembrandt’s life and work and thought he could easily recognise without any research. He also thought that he knew or recognised Rembrandt's family, and was instrumental in naming a large number of paintings, such as 'Rembrandt's Mother', 'Rembrandt's Father', or 'Rembrandt's Brother'. During his time as director, 11 paintings identified as Rembrandts were added to the Mauritshuis collection, however not all turned out to be the artist’s work at all.
This exhibition provides fascinating insight into the purchasing policies in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Mauritshuis purchased 18 paintings as Rembrandts but it is now known that only 11 of these paintings were correctly attributed to him, five were definitely not and there is uncertainty around the other two. The Mauritshuis will continue to examine and restore both paintings at the end of the exhibition.
The 11 genuine Rembrandts include some of the following famous works: The Laughing Man (ca. 1629-1630), Andromeda (ca. 1630), Simeon’s Song of Praise (1631), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (1632), Susanna (1636), ‘Tronie’ of a Man with a Feathered Beret (ca. 1635-1640), Saul and David (ca. 1651-1654/1655-1658) Two African Men (1661) Homer ( (1663), Portrait of an Elderly Man (1667) and the Self-Portrait (1669): famously known as Rembrandt’s final self-portrait.
A masterpiece dissected
During the 17th century, the Amsterdam surgeons' guild built a wooden domed vault with theatre seating, which was used for teaching surgical procedure to doctors using the remains of executed criminals. The lessons usually took place in winter to limit the smell! Initially, these meetings were only open to surgeons, however the Amsterdam’s surgeons’ guild later held one ticketed public dissection each year.
When Rembrandt was 25 years old, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the members of the Amsterdam surgeons' guild, resulting in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas. The painting is particularly important in art history, as it depict the human body in such a realistic way, using Rembrandt’s signature lighting techniques to place the viewer directly in the (disturbing!) scene. The painting first hung on the walls of the guild’s premises in De Waag and was purchased by the Dutch State in 1828. The general expectation was that the painting would move to the Rijksmuseum (at that time located in Het Trippenhuis). But things turned out a little differently King Willem I, who reportedly preferred the Mauritshuis, chose this location for its new home.
Rembrandt and the Mauritshuis runs until 15 September 2019.
Read more about the 350th anniversary of the Netherlands' most famous painter and see other exhibitions taking part in Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.