From 17 September 2011 to 16 March 2012, the Hermitage Amsterdam
will present a stunning selection from the Flemish art collection of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. With 75 paintings and about 20 drawings, this definitive survey will include numerous masterpieces by the three giants of the Antwerp School Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens accompanied by the work of well-known contemporaries.
Peter Paul Rubens (15771640) will be a special focus of the exhibition, represented by 17 paintings and many drawings. Rubens was the most accomplished and influential Flemish painter of the seventeenth century. At the same time, he was known as a charming aristocrat, diplomat, and collector, and his workshop was a smoothly operating business. He was a legend in his day, a homo universalis. Both Rubenss religious and his secular works illustrate his unequalled talent. One of his masterpieces is the famous Descent from the Cross (c. 1618), which depicts Christs suffering with compelling drama. This painting has never before been sent out on loan.
The exhibition will also examine Rubenss influence and followers in detail, devoting particular attention to the elegant and refined portraits of his greatest pupil, Anthony van Dyck (15991641). Around 1638, Van Dyck painted King Charles I of England and his wife, the French princess Henrietta Maria. By that time, he had been serving as the kings court painter for several years and had been knighted Sir Anthony.
The third great master of the Flemish school, Jacob Jordaens (15931678), did not study with Rubens but was influenced by him. His impressive paintings invite viewers to share in his exuberant Flemish joie de vivre. Even his history paintings have a Flemish ambiance.
Chirping birds, freshly killed game and floral bouquets grace the still lifes of Frans Snijders, while David Teniers the Younger was renowned for his genre pieces of everyday life. The exhibition will also feature a touching family portrait of Cornelis de Vos and many other major paintings by Flemish masters, displayed in their full glory.
It is the first time that this superb collection will be shown in the Netherlands. Many of these paintings were acquired by Catherine the Great in the eighteenth century. They belonged to world-class collectors such as Pierre Crozat and Heinrich von Brühl, whose collections Catherine purchased in their entirety. Most of them were commissioned by churches and secular patrons in Antwerp and other European cities, and were produced against the backdrop of the Eighty Years War and the Counter-Reformation. This Catholic movement, a reaction to the Reformation, encouraged both churches and private individuals to commission sacred art on a large scale. The epic Baroque style of Rubens and his contemporaries made an excellent propaganda tool for the Catholic church, the aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie.
With the aid of an audio tour, a film, and computer displays, the exhibition offers a close look at Flemish art and the history of the Flemish art collection at the St. Petersburg Hermitage. The vitality of seventeenth-century Antwerp comes to life on a special wall of the exhibition that shows painters studios, churches, and monuments in word and image. The accompanying catalogue will include essays by Russian and Flemish authors.