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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Royal Museum of The Hague contains approximately seven hundred pictures. The nucleus of its splendid collection was a group of paintings acquired by the Princes of Orange, who early encouraged artists by their generous commissions. During the Napoleonic period, with the confidence so characteristic of the time, the French removed the finest pictures from the various galleries of Europe and carried them home to France as spoils. After the Napoleonic spell was broken and each came again into his own, the different countries very properly insisted that their art treasures be returned to them, and in the majority of cases, this was conceded. In spite of the refusal of the king's sanction for the removal of Dutch paintings by the committee of citizens dispatched for them, they were nevertheless obtained, and on the 20th of November, 1815, they reached The Hague, while the pealing of glad bells proclaimed the joy of the populace.
In July of the year 1821 the collection was transferred by the king to the State, numbering then but few more than one hundred paintings. In 1829 King William I. purchased Rembrandt's Lesson in Anatomy. After that until 1874 few pictures were added; latterly the accumulation of works of art has been considerable.
They are housed in what is known as the Mauritshuis, a building with an interesting history. It was originally the palace of Prince John Maurice of Nassau, the governor of Brazil, at the time a Dutch colony. He returned from Brazil in 1664 and erected this building at great cost. Its interior was beautified by costly Brazilian woods. After his death it came into the possession of the Government and in 1704 burned, the walls alone remaining. It was rebuilt on the former plan but while its exterior appearance is the same the interior is simple indeed as compared to the magnificent palace once the pride of Maurice of Nassau. In 182o by royal decree it was set aside for the uses of art, the collection of the Princes of Orange being transferred to it.
About one-fourth of the paintings are the work of foreign artists—Flemish, German, French and Italian. Several of Rubens are here, a few of Van Dycks, Memlinc and van der Weyden.
Doubtless the Rembrandt room has greatest attraction for visitors. The Anatomy Lesson is one of the master's strongest creations. Beside this are two of his portraits, one of his mother, one of his wife Saskia, and the portrait of an old man, thought to have been his brother. Certain of his biblical scenes are here : Simeon in the Temple and David before Saul being most important. Susanna is his also.
Potter's Bull and the Mirrored Cow belong to this museum. The first hardly deserves the extravagant praise, nor perhaps the scathing criticism, that it has received. It should be re-membered that Potter was but twenty-two when he produced it and that his training had been very indifferent. The picture gives remarkable indications of promise and it cannot be doubted that had Potter lived, he would have come into remarkable power.
Having no work of Frans Hals, the government bought two of his pictures in 1881: the portraits of Jacob Olycan and his wife. They are done in the artist's characteristically bold style.
Ferdinand Bol, while under the influence of Rembrandt, occupied himself with biblical subjects some of which are shown here. However, ambitious painters of those years soon found portrait work most alluring from a remunerative stand-point. Before the age of photography, the wealthy burgher liked to have his portrait and those of his family to hang upon the walls of his dwelling; a successful portrait painter always received plenty of commissions and his compensation was commensurate with his abilities and reputation.
Maes is seen to best advantage in Amsterdam but the Royal Museum has two of his pictures. Two landscapes are among the treasures of the collection: the first, Ruisdael's Distant View of Haarlem; the second, Vermeer's View of Delft—his native town. It has been said that all the light he saw fall upon it he concentrated in this one picture. Dou's Household is among the best of the genre paintings.
The Municipal Museum of The Hague devotes two rooms to the masters, but the majority of its pictures are by modern artists. The largest canvas executed by Jan van Goy-en, called The Hague, is famous. The Barbizon School is well represented, allowing one to compare men of similar conceptions who developed in nineteenth-century France and Holland.
The Boijmans (or Boymans) Museum in Rotterdam was founded by the bequest of a citizen by that name who died in 1847. He had accumulated over three hundred paintings, most of them by the Dutch masters. A disastrous fire in 1864 destroyed the greater number of them, a loss which can never be compensated. In 1867 a new building was finished for the remaining pictures and since then others have been added until the collection again numbers perhaps four hundred. The ground floor of the building is used by the Rotterdam Public Library, part of it is reserved for the portraits and drawings belonging to the Art Collection.
The collection is rich in landscapes, which fall into two divisions : those which are purely Dutch in style and spirit and those which were done by artists who had be-come imbued with Italian spirit, either from extended study in Italy or at least extended study of Italian art. Only the first are interesting to the student of Dutch art unless the subject is to be exhaustively explored.
Several of Ruisdael's are here: his Wheatfield, where one sees the harvesters resting from the morning- work, while a half-mown field testifies to their earnest labor. The picture shows the influence of Rembrandt. The Shady Road, and Old Fish Market at Amsterdam are both important.
Hobbema has two views, the first a wooded landscape, and so entitled. The sun is piercing through black clouds, lighting the center, while both back and foreground lie in shadow. A woman and boy are fording a stream, bordered with willows. The second is a water scene; people are fishing in light boats and beyond can be seen a peasant's cottage.
Albert Cuyp, whose tastes were broad and varied, is rep-resented by The Stable and a View of the River in the Morning: Van Goyen by a river scene, Nicholas Maes by the Portrait of a Gentleman and Lady.
Jan Steen is happily shown by two of his humorous pictures: The Feast of St. Nicholas, wherein a little girl has found plenty of sweets and dainties in her stocking and the little boy only a switch; and the Operator—an amusing picture wherein a quack surgeon pretends to have removed a stone from a dullard's head to the latter's deep perplexity and the bystanders' intense amusement.
Four rooms are given up to the masters and two to modern painters. Mauve is represented among these.
The largest art gallery in Holland is the Rijks (or Ryks) Museum in Amsterdam. It boasts three thousand pictures. This collection dates back to a decree of Louis Bonaparte in 1808 sanctioning its establishment. Some ninety paintings which the French had spared in their plundering were collected as a nucleus. Others were later recovered. The collection in time outgrew its building and a new one was begun in 1877, being completed in 1885.
The ground floor contains much that has historic interest. It is devoted to Industrial Arts and its museum includes musical instruments, furniture, household utensils and costumes which have been known in Holland from earliest times.
The distinctive feature of the picture gallery is the Gallery of Honor, at the end of which until recently hung Rembrandt's Night Watch. Here it was displayed to great advantage and was particularly effective when viewed at a distance. Recently, there being some dissatisfaction with the light sup-plied to it, the picture has been given a room to itself, the difficulty now being that it has no prospective and is, as it were, closeted.
Four rooms open off the Gallery of Honor on either side. In the first Jan Steen's Devil's Safeguard and Potter's Bear-Hunt are best known; in the second, Ruisdael's beautiful Waterfall and pictures of Jan van Goyen. The third has many of Nicholas Maes' paintings—noteworthy among them the Endless Prayer, showing him still under the influence of his teacher, Rembrandt. Dead poultry, by Weenix and the Dance of Salome by Bol claim attention. In the fifth, Bol's allegorical work Education and his Naaman the Syrian ; Cuyp's Fighting Fowl in the sixth; Frans Hals and his wife in the seventh and Weenix's Dead Game in the eighth—all these are pictures of rare qualities.
Besides the Hals mentioned, his Jolly Toper and a copy of his Jester—the original being in the possession of Baron Rothschild in Paris—are important. Dou and Van Steen are both well represented and one of Rembrandt's masterpieces, the Syndics of the Guild of Drapers, is satisfying to many who find the Night Watch perplexing.
Hobbema's Water-mill is one of his most gratifying productions. "The composition offers on the right a large overshot water-mill, and an adjoining red-tiled house, backed with clusters of trees. A stream flows along the front, beyond which is some level ground, where a man and a boy are seen approaching and a woman standing at a tub washing. The distance is terminated with clumps of trees and low hedges, enclosing meadows, over which passes a gleam of sunshine."
A view of Amsterdam by Van der Veldes, gives a survey of the city, with its ships, docks and prominent buildings.
The Municipal Museum (called also the Stedekijk) was established to display the work of nineteenth century artists. Ten of Israels' pictures are here and Mauve's famous Sheep of the Dunes. The collection was begun in 1892 to give dutiful honor to painters of today.
The Six collection, housed in the residence of Professor Six, contains many fine examples of seventeenth century paintings. Originally a collection of family portraits, it has expanded to include pictures famous in many lands.