For the first time in its existence, the Hermitage Amsterdam
is holding an exhibition devoted to one of the most spectacular treasures of the State Hermitage museum in St Petersburg: its collection of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. The selection of works in the Dutch Masters from the Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars exhibition totals sixty-three paintings by no fewer than fifty different artists, including six by Rembrandt. Virtually all the great Dutch Masters are represented. The State Hermitages collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings contains 1500 works, making it the biggest anywhere outside the Netherlands.
Grandest ever selection
The exhibition promises to be a feast of old favourites and new discoveries, with six works by Rembrandt plus works by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde, Ferdinand Bol, Gerard ter Borch, Gerard Dou, Govert Flinck, Jan van Goyen, Frans Hals, Pieter Lastman, Gabriël Metsu, Paulus Potter, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Steen, Joachim Wtewael and many others. The glory days of Golden Age painting between 1650 and 1670 are lavishly represented by 37 works. In addition to world-famous masterpieces like Rembrandts Flora and Young Woman with Earrings, one of Frans Hals renowned male portraits and van Bartholomeus van der Helsts Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam, the show includes works by lesser-known but still extremely impressive painters like Willem Drost, Jacob Duck, Pieter Janssens Elinga, Arent de Gelder and Emanuel de Witte. The vast majority (57) of the works normally form part of the permanent display of Dutch Painting at the State Hermitage and most have not been back in the Netherlands since they were acquired for the Russian collection.
Love of Dutch Masters
The exhibition also explores the Russian Tsars love of Dutch Masters and the way the artworks were traded. Peter the Great was among the earliest collectors of Dutch Masters, acquiring his first Rembrandt when he was just 25. His interest predated the craze that gradually swept Europe. In the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great built up a large collection (as did many private collectors) and nineteenth-century Tsars continued to build on her holdings, thereby helping to reinforce the growing international appreciation of Rembrandt and his contemporaries.