Following the reopening of the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art) and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2013, it is now the turn of the world famous Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The Mauritshuis has one of the finest collections of Dutch Golden Age paintings in the world. Who doesn’t know Johan Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, the inspiration behind Tracy Chevalier’s novel and the subsequent film. Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch has become even more famous because of Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name. The museum owns several works by Rembrandt, including Anatomy Lesson by Dr. Tulp, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and many other Dutch master painters.
Dr. Emilie Gordenker, the gallery’s director, explained that this small, very intimate museum, housed in a prime example of Dutch Classicist architecture (1636-1644), did not meet the needs of the 21st century visitor any longer. The purchase of an adjacent Art Deco building offered the chance to double the museum’s existing floor space and provides new galleries for temporary exhibitions, an education centre, a cafe and other modern visitor facilities. The Amsterdam-based practice, Hans van Heeswijk Architects, has linked this new space to the historic building by a new light-filled underground foyer.
The £25m restoration provides an opportunity for a fresh presentation of this world-famous collection. ‘Even though it is important to protect these paintings, we would like to keep the intimacy and the domestic scale’ said Gordenker. So no great barriers around the Dutch Mona Lisa, but the museum will have to look at crowd control, especially after the most famous paintings have been on a world tour while the museum has been closed. Between June 2012 and January 2013 nearly 1.2 million people visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the Kobe City Museum in Japan. Before the Mauritshuis was closed it attracted around 250,000 visitors a year. Gordenker anticipates an increase by 25%, but still would like to keep the ‘jewel box’ atmosphere the museum has been famous for.
Let’s hope we will be able to see these world-class paintings properly and not have to suffer the London Underground rush hour feeling one experiences while visiting the Gallery of Honour in the Rijksmuseum with The Nightwatch and the Vermeers.
Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, The Netherlands, Reopening 27 June
Words: Juliette Bogaers Photo: Courtesy Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery © Artlyst 2014