Dutch Painters at the Prado

<em>Judith delivering the Head of Holofernes</em>, Salomon de Bray. Oil on panel, 89 x 71 cm. 1636. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Judith delivering the Head of Holofernes, Salomon de Bray. Oil on panel, 89 x 71 cm. 1636. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Museo del Prado is focusing on Dutch painting with the presentation of the temporary exhibition Dutch Painters at the Prado, as well as its latest “Invited Work”, Company of Captain Reijnier Reael loaned from the Rijksmuseum

Wednesday 02 December 2009

The Museum is presenting the exhibition Dutch Painters at the Prado (3 December 2009 to 11 April 2010) in conjunction with the arrival of the latest “Invited Work”, Company of Captain Reijnier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz by Frans Hals and Pieter Codde, loaned from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and with the publication of the first catalogue raisonné of the Prado’s collection of Dutch paintings. For the first time, the exhibition offers a comprehensive and attractive survey of the principal works of this school housed in the Museum, and is complemented by the display in an adjoining gallery of the painting by Hals and Codde that will remain at the Prado for three months.

Among the most significant revelations of the exhibition, alongside the provenance and importance of the principal works from the Museum’s Dutch collection, is the presence of the only fully accepted work by Rembrandt in a Spanish public collection. Traditionally known as Artemisia, this painting has now been identified as Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes.

Through the generosity of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, from 3 December the Prado will be displaying a masterpiece by the Dutch painter Frans Hals, Company of Captain Reijnier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz Blaeuw (1633-1637), which was completed by his fellow-countryman Pieter Codde. This magnificent work by one of the most important Dutch painters of the 17th century is to be seen at the Museum as part of its “Invited Work” programme. In 1885 Van Gogh said of it: “Just to see that painting would make the journey to Amsterdam worthwhile”. The canvas will be shown in conjunction with the exhibition Dutch Painters at the Prado and will create a fascinating conclusion to this exhibition of Dutch paintings from the Museum’s own collection. The publication of the first catalogue raisonné of the collection, written by Teresa Posada Kubissa, Curator of the Department of Flemish and Northern Schools (up to 1700), encouraged the organisation of this exhibition. For the first time, the exhibition brings together 56 of the most important paintings from this little-known aspect of the Museum’s collections. While for historical reasons some of the greatest names of Dutch art are not represented in the Prado, many of the most celebrated and highly esteemed painters of the day are to be found.

The exhibition and catalogue raisonné

The research and study involved in preparing the present exhibition and the new catalogue have allowed for a reassessment of a number of works previously considered to be Dutch to be reassigned to the Flemish school, thus clarifying and refining the Museum’s Dutch collection. With the publication of this catalogue, the Prado continues its series of publications launched with the catalogue raisonné of its El Greco holdings. These publications are intended to offer in-depth information on the works in the Museum’s collection. As a result of years of preparatory study and research into the style, technique and documentation of the Dutch paintings, and the restoration of a large number of them, the new catalogue now includes 100 works attributed to 17th-century Dutch painters and excludes 26 traditionally attributed to that school. In addition, it proposes 19 new attributions.

The carefully selected group of works in the exhibition includes the only work by Rembrandt in the Prado’s collection and the only one in a Spanish public collection universally accepted by experts. The painting’s subject is now identified as Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes following detailed research undertaken for the catalogue. This new iconographic reading of Rembrandt’s famous painting replaces the previous one of Artemisia about to drink the ashes of her husband Mausolus. Rembrandt’s masterpiece is shown in the exhibition alongside Salomon de Bray’s Judith presenting the Head of Holofernes, as well as other outstanding works of the Dutch school such as The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Matthias Stom, Jupiter and the other Gods urge Apollo to take up the Reins of Day’s Chariot by Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, and Setting out with the Herd by Jan Both.

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