A new perspective on Dutch masters
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has long housed remarkable Dutch and Flemish paintings. The magnificent Rogier van der Weyden “St. Luke drawing the Virgin” (c. 1435-40), with its magical details, its well-characterized protagonists and its distant riverside town – probably the finest Dutch painting from the beginning of this century. country – entered the collection in 1893. “The artist in his studio” by Rembrandt dramatically illuminated (c. 1628), the painter stepping back to contemplate a large canvas, was given in 1938, enclosing portraits and waters Strong acquired much earlier. The “Mulay Ahmad” by Peter Paul Rubens (circa 1609), an inventive copy of a lost portrait of the Berber king of Tunis, all of magnificent fabrics and a lively personality, was purchased in 1940. An austere church interior from 1655 by Pieter Saenredam came in 1948; the impressive full-length portraits of Reverend Johannes Elison and his wife (1634), in 1956; and a portrait of Frans Hals, in 1966. These works were included. glories of a modest collar lection which included oil sketches by Rubens, Dutch landscapes and marine paintings, occasional genre scenes, decorative arts and a huge fully faked model of the East Dutch East India Company ship Valkeniss (1717) .
In 2017, the MFA received large donations of important Dutch works from the collections of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie. Since then, additional gifts and purchases, long-term loans and pledged gifts from the collections of the Van Otterloos, Maida and George Abrams, and Kathleen and Martin Feldstein have made the MFA’s collections of 17th century Dutch art, the golden age, among the most important in the United States, and also strengthened its Flemish collections.
Today, seven enlarged and elegant galleries combine the best of the old and the new. En route to the new installations, we can preview the forces that ensue, including a good representation of female artists, thanks to a rare series of the five senses, idiosyncratically portrayed by the recently rediscovered Flemish painter Michaelina Wautier (1604- 1689). Then, the glorious Van der Weyden, two centuries older, announces the new galleries, an enlightening precursor, devotional image of an artist at work who is also the source of the secular art that follows.
Thematically installed, the new galleries begin with the various genres explored by painters of the Golden Age, including self-portraits such as an elegantly dressed Judith Leyster, holding her brushes and examining herself, and Maria Schalcken, working on a landscape. This miraculous Rembrandt from the studio is opposite. The groupings are visually rich and informative. Paintings of flowers, including a sumptuous bouquet by Rachel Ruysch, are put into context by a double portrait of a couple holding a tulip and a bulb, reminiscent of the tulipomania of the 1630s. Throughout, the rhythm is varied and our understanding enlarged by the imaginative presentation of porcelain, silver, medals and other period objects, some of which appear in the paintings.
New Dutch and Flemish art galleries
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A large gallery with Flemish paintings (including “Mulay Ahmad” by Rubens) on one side, Dutch on the other, culminates in Rembrandt’s portraits of the Elisons, with this astonishing model of a ship in the middle, an arrangement reminiscent of the galleries of the newly renovated Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Splendid landscapes and marine paintings evoke the humid and changing light of the Netherlands. Nearby, an affluent Dutch interior is evoked by period furniture, decorative arts, small paintings that could have been displayed in private quarters, and imposing ones befitting more public parts of the house. A checkerboard floor reinforces the suggestion of Golden Age domesticity.
The “Global Commerce” gallery pays homage to Dutch maritime prowess and international trade, from the North Sea to Japan, without ignoring the problematic side. Still lifes of exotic artifacts and food items, including candy, are accompanied by informative wall texts about the increased use of sugar at the time, as well as the brutal plantation labor and slavery associated with its production in Brazil. Richly illustrated atlases, landscapes and a portrait of the wife of the leader of the Dutch East India Company enrich the story.
Among the many highlights: a handsome old Rembrandt, “Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh” (1632); a “Young Girl in Profile” with golden hair (c. 1631-32) by her studio companion, Jan Lievens; Frans Hals’ uncompromising wife posed like a man, her hand on her hip; The busy Hendrick Avercamp skaters on a frozen canal. The most adorable: Gerrit Dou’s sleeping dog.
The transformative donations of 2017 also included an endowment for the MFA’s new Dutch Art Center, an innovative project with beautifully designed neighborhoods, state-of-the-art facilities and an extensive comprehensive library, recently acquired from the eminent Egbert scholar. Haverkamp-Begemann. CNA will provide fellowships and opportunities for collaboration with other institutions. Most importantly, its scholarships, technical studies, curatorial, education programs, outreach activities and more will focus on the works of art in the collection. A new gallery is devoted to exhibitions resulting from the research of the CNA. Expect an increase in the number of graduate students focusing on 17th century Dutch art.
-Mrs. Wilkin is an independent curator and critic.
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