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Dutch Painters at the Prado

Madrid 12/3/2009 - 4/11/2010

The exhibition Dutch Painters in the Prado has been organised in conjunction with the publication of the fi rst catalogue of the collection of 17th-century Dutch paintings in the Museo del Prado. The exhibition brings together a sizeable group of works from this practically unknown collection, which has barely been displayed in the galleries of the Museum since the 1940s.The term Dutch Painting refers to the works produced in the Northern United Provinces, which became an independent nation following the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1579, while the Southern United Provinces (Flanders) remained under Spanish rule. The Northern Provinces numbered even, of which Holland was the largest. Its capital, Amsterdam, was the economic engine behind this new nation, which became one of the leading European powers over the course of the 17th century. Its powerful mercantile, middle class promoted a highly active process of cultural development and used painting as the primary vehicle for an affi rmation of this new national identity.Coinciding with the celebration of this exhibition and in addition, the Museum will present in an adjoining room the painting The Company of Captain Reijnier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz Blaeuw by Franz Hals and Pieter Codde, coming from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This painting, which hangs in the Prado as part of Invited work, will be exhibited at the Museum until February 28.

The exhibition is organised into three sections: Dutch paintings originally in the collections of Philip IV and Charles II; Dutch paintings from the collections of the Bourbons; and new acquisitions in the form of bequests, donations, gifts in lieu and purchases. Many of the works on display were restored for the purposes of preparing the catalogue. As a result, it is now possible to appreciate the subtle chromatic gradations, beautiful effects of light and the precision of line to be found in many of these works, whose previous state of conservation prevented a full appreciation.

Teresa Posada. Curator of the Department of Flemish and Northern Schools (up to 1700) at Museo del Prado


Room C. Jerónimos Building





Dutch paintings in the collection of Philip IV and Charles II

Dutch paintings in the collection of Philip IV and Charles II
Winter Landscape with Skaters. Joost Cornelisz Droochsloot, Oil on canvas, 75 x 111 cm. 1629. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Historical and political reasons, in addition to issues of taste and a lack of interest in this school, explain the fact that the inventories of the collections of the last Habsburg monarchs, Philip IV and Charles II, list few Dutch paintings. Dutch painters worked in a Protestant context and their desire to liberate themselves from southern, Catholic infl uence led them to associate themselves with the northern pictorial tradition preferred by the Calvinist branch of the reformist church that prevailed in Holland. In addition, the Dutch had fought to win their freedom from the Spanish throne and were enemies of the Church of Rome.

As a result, and despite the outstanding and undeniable artistic merit of Dutch paintings, Philip IV and Charles II – like other 17thcentury Italian and French collectors – did not appreciate works associated with this tradition, which moved away from the classicising idealism derived from Renaissance humanism in favour of a descriptive and domestic type of painting based on the object and the depiction of the surroundings and everyday activities.

Dutch paintings in the collection of the Bourbons

Dutch paintings in the collection of the Bourbons
Dead Cock. Gabriël Metsu. Oil on panel, 57 x 40 cm. ca. 1659-1660. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

The arrival of the Bourbon dynasty coincided with the new century and a shift in artistic taste. Philip V and Isabella Farnese, both enthusiastic collectors, brought with them an interest in the Flemish and Dutch cabinet paintings that were greatly in vogue at other European courts. As a consequence, a large group of Flemish paintings entered the Spanish collections, as well as a smaller number of Dutch ones, which subsequent Bourbon monarchs continued to acquire.

The exhibition includes a selection of the Dutch paintings acquired by successive Spanish Bourbon monarchs. The group includes all the genres typical of Dutch painting: marine views, winter landscapes, genre scenes, still lifes, hunting and battle scenes, and history paintings.

Falling into the latter category is Rembrandt’s painting of Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes (previously known as Artemisia), which was acquired by Charles III. It is one of the masterpieces of the Prado’s collection and the only work in Spain by the great Dutch master whose attribution is universally accepted by experts.

New acquisitions: bequests, donations, gifts in lieu and purchases

New acquisitions: bequests, donations, gifts in lieu and purchases
Portrait of a Lady from the van Beijeren van Schagen Family (Theodora van Duvenvoord?). Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt. Oil on panel, 63 x 51 cm. 1620. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

This section includes the Dutch paintings that entered the Museo del Prado in the 19th century through bequests and donations, and those that came to the museum in the 20th century as gifts in lieu or direct purchases. This has allowed various gaps in the collection to be filed, for example, still lifes and in particular, portraits. There is still much to be done in this sense, but these new acquisitions reveal that the Museum’s Dutch collecting is a living, growing one.


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