The new Mauritshuis

27 Jun 2014 | Wendy Fossen

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After a major two year renovation period, the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery will open its gates to the public on the 27th of June. A large palace turned into a museum in 1822, the building was in desperate need of renovation and update. Mauritshuis enjoys a prestigious location, sharing the neighborhood with the Dutch Prime Minister and the  government buildings.

 

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The exterior represents the Dutch Classicist building style with exuberant decorations such as festoons, cornices, pilasters and capitals, resembling a Roman temple. It's architect, Jacob van Campen created this beautiful palace between 1633-1644 and it was one of his first commissions. 


The location was well chosen by the patron and name giver of the current museum, Count Johan Maurits of Nassau Siegen.  The palace bordered the Hofvijver and a small lake one one side while on the other stood a large open square lined with trees. His neighbour was Constantijn Huygens, secretary to the Stadholder. Maurits and Huygens became close friends, and when Johan Maurits left for Brazil, Huygens kept an eye on the buildings progress. From their letters we get a good idea of the issues, a building project such as this raised. When Maurits returned from Recife in Brazil in 1644, his house was about to be completed. The large hall on the second floor, now known as the Potterzaal for the large painting of The Bull, was decorated with a rich variety of artifacts that he had brought back from Brazil and which he turned into a cabinet of curiosities.

Unfortunately, in 1704 there was a large fire, completely devastating the interior. Maurits was long dead and the building being used as a state hotel for foreign visitors. It took more than ten years to reconstruct the building, and the most noteworthy is the ceiling in the Golden Room on the first floor. Restorations appeared quite a challenge, but with the help of the experts of the Shell Technology Centre (Shell is one of the main sponsors of The Mauritshuis)  these paintings returned to their original Venetian brilliance.

 

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As part of the facelift, visitors no longer have to use the servant's entrance, but  can enter the museum through the gates, just as Maurits once did. Under the court yard, a grand foyer has been created for public facilities, like the ticket desk, automatic ticket machines, information desk and so forth. The second staircase which leads to the new building across the street is the Art Deco building and has been converted into an library, exhibition, auditory and education space.


The temporary exhibition - the first of three each year - is about the building, the architect and its inhabitants. Here a beautiful painting by Jacob van Campen gives us an idea of the exotic objects Johan Maurits brought back from Brazil. Do take the opportunity to see this painting because it usually hangs in the Palace Huis ten Bosch.

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 The permanent exhibition of 17th century Dutch masters is of worldwide importance. During the renovation, a selection of masterpieces, such as Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring (also known as the Mona Lisa of the North) and Fabritius' Goldfinch (both works subjects of books) went on tour. Their visits to Japan, the US and Italy resulted in blockbuster exhibitions drawing 2.2 million visitors.  Now they're are back home and comfortable situated in their own house and you can go and see them!

The opening ceremony on 27 June will be attended by the King at five o'clock and from eight to midnight the museum will be open its gates to the public for free.

As of 28 June, a ticket costs €14,- for adults or free with a museum card. Children under 18 are free too.

 


For tours of the collection look at the website of Casa dell'Arte or visit the brand new website of  Mauritshuis. Wendy Fossen is an Art historian and ACCESS tainer.

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