Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition trailer (1 minute). Source: YouTube.

The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam has received several paintings on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which are now permanently displayed along with seventeenth-century paintings from the Hermitage’s own collection. The result is an impressive collection of group portraits that give a nice overview of the different social groups that were active in seventeenth-century Dutch republic: regents, civic guards, trade guilds, merchants, and (religious) benefactors of charities for the poor, the sick, and the disabled.

The seventeenth-century paintings were interspersed with what the museum terms an ‘intervention’: a temporary exhibition of nine contemporary paintings by the Dutch visual artist Natasja Kensmil entitled ‘Monuments of Regents’ (2019). This series focuses particularly on the role of the regents’ wives and women in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. The paintings features multiple thick layers of paint and several images have been painted over each other, which creates a very interesting (and a little alienating) effect. The paintings present viewers with another, more critical look at the darker, colonial, side of the wealth displayed so prominently by the sitters in the seventeenth-century group portraits. It is a nice contrast with the other portraits on display.

Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century exhibition. Some paintings from Monuments of Regents (2019) by Natasja Kensmil
Some paintings from Monuments of Regents (2019) by Natasja Kensmil. Source: Monuments of Regents exhibition website.

Sadly, the temporary exhibition of Natasja Kensmil’s paintings has ended on 29 August 2021, but you can read more about Monuments of Regents on the exhibition website, which is still up. The Hermitage museum plans to exhibit contemporary ‘interventions’ such as this more often so it’ll be interesting to see what’ll be on display next.

The exhibition of seventeenth-century group portraits is temporarily supplemented with a temporary exhibition entitled ‘Dutch Masters Revisited’ featuring almost life-sized photographs in which several famous Dutch people of colour pose as seventeenth-century citizens of colour who are known to have lived in the Dutch Republic, based on scientific research that is outlined in the accompanying information signs.  

Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century exhibition. Rapper Typhoon as Elieser. Photo by Humberto Tan
Rapper Typhoon as Elieser. Photo by Humberto Tan. Source: Dutch Masters Revisited website.

The Dutch Masters Revisited temporary exhibition runs until 2 February 2022. It’s gorgeous so do visit if you have the chance! You can find more information and buy tickets at the exhibition website. Here’s a longer video of the exhibition (c. 6 minutes) to feast your eyes on:

Impression of the Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century exhibition at the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam. Source: YouTube.

If civic guard portraits are your thing, make sure to pay a visit to the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem as well. I visited this museum a couple of years ago and they have an impressive collection of  exquisitely executed civic guard portraits by Dutch Master painter Frans Hals (1582/3-1666),  a specialist in this type of portraits. Recently, the Frans Hals Museum too received a loan from the Rijksmuseum: the portrait of the Meagre Company, the civic guard of district XI in Amsterdam led by Reynier Reael. So the Frans Hals Museum now (temporarily) has the full Frans Hals collection of civic guard portraits on display. This temporary exhibition runs until 1 July 2022; a perfect reason for another visit to this lovely museum. They also have a late seventeenth-century dollhouse with a complete interior of miniature furniture (by merging the interiors of two early modern dollhouses), which in and of itself is already worth a(nother) visit.

Dollhouse interior at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
Dollhouse interior at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. Source: Geschiedenislocaal023 website.

More information about the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions and tickets for the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem are available on their website.