The 17th century was a period of economic prosperity, of free thinking and of great artistic productivity in the Northern Netherlands and was therefore later named ‘The Golden Age’. With the bourgeoisie gaining wealth in trade and being proud of their recently gained independence, a large part of the population was for the first time able to buy paintings to decorate their homes. The high demand provided a good income for a large number of talented painters.

Some of the most famous names of Dutch art history emerged at this highly productive period; genre painting, landscapes, still lives, portraits and seascapes were flourishing.

During the 19th century, the pictorial subjects of the “Golden Age” were attracting new interest especially in France. The post-revolutionary bourgeoisie who made huge fortunes in trade, industry and finance identified with the civic pride of the 17th-century Dutch merchants and developed a keen taste for the art of that period. One collector and a typical representative of that upper class was the Franco-Luxembourgish financier Jean-Pierre Pescatore (1793-1855) who maintained excellent relations with the Kingdom of the Netherlands which included the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg at that time.

Moreover, art historians, men of letters and painters were seized with enthusiasm for the “ancient Dutch”. The complex still-lives, the typical landscapes and genre painting were particularly appreciated and copied among 19th-century artists.

The exhibition, developed in cooperation with the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, combines two collections of Dutch art: The Villa Vauban’s collections, tracing back to Pescatore and including works by David Teniers the Younger, Jan Steen and Gerard Dou and selected masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum’s collections, including paintings by Frans Hals, Paulus Potter, Govert Flinck, Jan van Goyen and Jacob van Ruisdael. Additionally, engravings from the collections of the von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal will also be on show.

The visitor discovers diverse aspects of Dutch painting of the Golden Age in the exhibition which go beyond the often admired abundance of details and subjects characteristic of these artworks: What exactly fascinated the 19th century with the 17th? How did 19th-century painters imitate the Old Masters?

Furthermore, a view “behind” the paintings will be granted: Which types of frames did buyers and collectors prefer during the two periods? The visitor also learns about the art trade as well as about the restoration of selected artworks. Finally, the exhibition raises the question of how we perceive 17th-century art today.


2 May > 31 October 2010