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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston reopens renovated Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery
Jan van der Heyden (Dutch, 1637–1712), View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, about 1667-70. Oil on panel. Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has unveiled one of its grandest spaces, the new Dutch and Flemish gallery, which has opened to the public after a nearly year-long renovation. The transformed Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery features seven paintings by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. These are among approximately 30 paintings in the gallery illustrating the full range of art production in the Netherlands. Included are fine landscapes, still lifes, genre scenes, portraits, and religious histories by acclaimed artists, such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jan Steen, and Jacob van Ruisdael. Canvases of varying size, including monumental paintings, are installed on damask-covered walls, while smaller works by Rembrandt, his students, and associates are displayed in cases. Complementing the paintings in the gallery are decorative art objects, including Dutch furniture, Delft pottery, and silver. The renovation of the Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery was made possible by Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo.

Also reopened is a companion gallery, the Leo and Phyllis Beranek Gallery, where approximately 20 works are displayed. In addition to showcasing Dutch and Flemish art from the Museum’s holdings, both galleries highlight loans from important collections, including 18 works lent by the Van Otterloos, continuing the Museum’s long-standing relationship with these noted supporters. The MFA also has opened the Alan and Simone Hartman Galleries featuring two 18th-century period rooms from Great Britain—Newland House Drawing Room and Hamilton Palace Dining Room—as well as a gallery for British Art 1560–1830.

“Through this transformation of the Museum’s Dutch and Flemish galleries, made possible by Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, we have the opportunity to showcase seven of the finest paintings by Rembrandt and illustrate his influence on a number of his contemporaries,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “These paintings and a splendid array of other important works are presented in a beautiful new space that highlights the breadth of artistic expression in the Netherlands at its pinnacle in the 17th century. I greatly appreciate the generosity of our lenders, who have enabled us to share these treasures with our visitors.”

Twenty-seven works from the Museum’s own collection are hung in the two galleries, including Rembrandt’s Artist in his Studio (about 1628), Rubens’s The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant (about 1626), and Van Dyck’s Peeter Symons (about 1630–32). Also on view are the recently conserved paintings Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam (1677) by Emanuel de Witte and Jan den Uyl’s Breakfast Still Life with Glass and Metalwork (about 1637–39). Two additional works that were restored, Rembrandt’s pendants Reverend Johannes Elison and Mevr. Johannes Elison (both 1634), flank an exquisitely carved oak cupboard (about 1610–20) measuring more than 7-feet tall and 5-feet wide, on top of which a garniture, or display, of Delftware is presented. This arrangement is on view in the Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery.

Complementing the MFA’s works are paintings lent by the Van Otterloos, such as Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), among the finest Rembrandt paintings in private hands; Dog at Rest (1650) by Gerrit Dou; Portrait of a Preacher (about 1660) by Frans Hals; and Still Life with Seashells (1698) by Adriaen Coorte. Works lent by a private New York collector include Minerva (1635), a nearly life-sized depiction of the goddess from a group of mythological and historical female figures painted by Rembrandt between 1633 and 1635, which makes its Boston debut at the MFA. Among the other works lent by the collector are A Scholar Interrupted at His Writing (about 1635) by Gerrit Dou, A Young Woman Feeding a Parrot (1663) by Frans van Mieris the Elder, Sacrifice of Iphigenia (1671) by Jan Steen, and Venus and Cupid (1658) by Rembrandt’s student, Ferdinand Bol.

Also showcased is Joos de Momper’s monumental painting (6 feet by 8 ½ feet) Mountain Landscape with Travelers from the collection of Horace Wood (“Woody”) Brock, which last was displayed at the MFA in 2009. It is shown with the poetic Orpheus Charming the Animals (about 1640) by Aelbert Cuyp from the Van Otterloo Collection, and Landscape with Gentlefolk and Gypsies by Jan Wildens, a recently conserved painting and the first Flemish work to enter the MFA’s collection (in 1873).

“To have the opportunity to fill these galleries with important loans that complement our own superb collection is a curator’s dream,” said Ronni Baer, William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator of Paintings, Art of Europe, at the MFA. “I love the way the warm gray damask makes the blue skies in the landscapes come alive. And the installation enables us to tell different kinds of stories, from how Rembrandt made his successful move from Leiden to Amsterdam to the use of gesture in portraits and narratives.”

The Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery also highlights nearly 60 decorative arts objects. On view in four cases is a selection of recently acquired Delft ceramics (from the G. Ephis Collection of more than 70 works), among them Pair of tulip vases as triumphal arches (about 1690), which recalls Baroque festival architecture. There are also pairings of Delft with examples of Chinese and Japanese porcelain that inspired them. Silver, as well, is represented in the gallery, where notable works include a Layette Basket (Dutch, 1666–67), marked by Adriaen van Hoecke, and a rare Ewer and Basin (1632) by Christiaen van Vianen, with curves and lobes resembling the human ear.

The Museum’s new Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery, with its 31- foot-high ceilings, has been dramatically enhanced and features new decorative elements, including a warm gray Gainsborough silk damask fabric on the walls and a freshly painted cove and ceiling. State-of-the-art cases constructed by Italian manufacturer Goppion have been added to display small canvases and decorative art objects. Refurbished skylights and the addition of LED lighting improve illumination in the gallery, and new graphics enhance the appreciation of the art on view.

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