fries museum

special self-portrait by rembrandt

The Fries Museum has loaned a special painting by Rembrandt van Rijn especially for the exhibition Rembrandt & Saskia: Love and Marriage in the Dutch Golden Age. The work, Self-portrait as a burgher (1632), is part of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and has not been in the Netherlands since 1727. It will be viewable from 24 November 2018 to 17 March 2019 in Rembrandt & Saskia: Love and Marriage in the Dutch Golden Age in the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden.

Rembrandt completed this self-portrait in 1632. At the beginning of the 18th century, the work surfaced in France and eventually came into the possession of Louis Philippe II, the Duke of Orléans. His collection of Flemish and Dutch masters was sold in 1792 to the art dealer Thomas Moore Slade in London. The painting had several owners after that, and was eventually bought by the Scottish businessman and philanthropist Sir William Burrell in 1946, who then donated it to the city of Glasgow. In the meantime, this painting has not been seen in the Netherlands since its departure in 1727.

Previously, the Fries Museum announced that Rembrandt's portrait of his wife Saskia Uylenburgh will be on display in the Netherlands for the first time in more than 250 years. With this, the museum has managed to bring two absolute masterpieces by one of the most famous Dutch painters to the Netherlands.

Rembrandt van Rijn and Saskia Uylenburgh form the leitmotif of an exhibition on high-society marriages in the 17th century. More than 250 objects relate how joy and sorrow were shared in those days. Attention is paid to all aspects of love, from early courtship and lavish weddings to the darker sides of marriage such as child mortality and adultery. A total of 23 works by the Dutch master are featured in Rembrandt & Saskia: Love and Marriage in the Dutch Golden Age

Rembrandt met Saskia in 1633. He was already well on his way to becoming a prominent painter, and she came from a wealthy family in Leeuwarden. Soon after their first meeting, the couple announced their engagement and in 1634 were married in the Frisian village of St. Annaparochie. After the wedding the couple moved to Amsterdam, where Rembrandt had his studio. The painter liked to use his new wife as a model. A number of his drawings and etchings depicting Saskia are included in the exhibition.

society marriage
The exhibition not only follows the marriage of Rembrandt and Saskia, but also gives an insight into how events unfolded during a 17th-century high-society wedding. Engraved wedding hearts, lewd poems and paintings full of symbolism show how people in the Dutch Golden Age regarded love, religion and eternal fidelity. For example, a work by Govert Flinck depicts the young Suzanna van Baerle with a Cupid fountain to represent her endless love, and green ivy to symbolise her fidelity and perseverance.

Back then an aristocratic wedding sometime lasted for weeks and was celebrated with exuberant parties and feasts. No effort or expense was spared and just like today these moments were documented. The exhibition includes a painted ‘wedding report’ of the marriage of Squire Eraert van Pipenpoy and Lady Jel van Liauckema. Besides portraits of prominent couples, the museum also exhibits wedding gifts such as refined wedding rings, exquisite jewellery boxes and precious silverware.

Children were the crowning glory of 17th-century marriage. Besides being a God-given mission, it was also the way to pass on the family name, status, possessions and privileges. But children were vulnerable in the Dutch Golden Age and child mortality was high. For every family this was a great source of grief. This is why wealthy parents had their children and loved ones immortalised in family portraits. Among others, the exhibition includes works by Wybrand de Geest, Lambert Jacobsz and Abraham van der Tempel.

In the exhibition designed by Peter de Kimpe and Rolf Toxopeus, the visitor is led through six rooms devoted to the Netherlands during the Golden Age. It becomes clear that although the circumstances were different, many of the wedding customs back then vary little from ours today, and that feelings of love and sorrow are timeless.

More than 70 works from all over Europe have been loaned to the Fries Museum for this exhibition. Its own collection is supplemented by masterpieces from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Fondation Custodia in Paris, the University Library in Ghent, various private collections, and others.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name. In this book, experts from the Netherlands and abroad discuss the lives of Rembrandt, Saskia and the special marriage customs of the 17th century. The book is published by WBooks and is available in Dutch, English and German.

The exhibition Rembrandt & Saskia: Love in the Dutch Golden Age is made in collaboration with Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of the Museumslandschaft Hessen-Kassel and can be seen from 24 November 2018 to 17 March 2019 in the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, and from 12 April to 11 August 2019 under the title Kassel… verliebt in Saskia. Liebe und Ehe in Rembrandts Zeit in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of the Museumslandschaft Hessen-Kassel.

rembrandt and the dutch golden age
Rembrandt & Saskia: Love in the Golden Age is the prelude to the thematic year ‘Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age’. In 2019, the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn's death will be honoured with numerous activities in The Hague, Leiden, Leeuwarden and Amsterdam, and elsewhere. Experience the Netherlands at the time of Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age with special exhibitions in Museum De Lakenhal, the Fries Museum, the Mauritshuis, the Rembrandt House Museum and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

The exhibition ‘Rembrandt & Saskia: Love in the Golden Age’ is made possible in part by the Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Foundation, Municipality of Leeuwarden, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Stichting Het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis, Ondernemersfonds Leeuwarden, the Dutch Government (the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands granted an indemnity guarantee on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science), Stichting Dorodarte, Siebolt Foundation and the Friends of the Fries Museum.

The Fries Museum is co-funded by the Ir. Abe Bonnema Foundation, the Province of Friesland, the Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas, the BankGiro Lottery and Aegon.

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