Highlights of an Academic Collection
17 October 2014 to 21 January 2015
This autumn the Rembrandt House Museum will be showcasing more than seventy-five seventeenth-century drawings held by the University of Leiden. These are masterpieces by famous and lesser known artists including Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt, Jan Lievens, Govert Flinck, Jan van Goyen, Cornelis Bega, Simon de Vlieger, Willem van de Velde the Elder, Adriaen van Ostade and Cornelis Dusart. Many of the drawings have never previously been seen by the general public. The exhibition in the Rembrandt House will provide a unique opportunity to see the finest seventeenth-century drawings from Leiden, an extraordinary collection that celebrates its two hundredth anniversary this year.
Two hundred years ago the University of Leiden was bequeathed a collection of drawings and prints by the widow of Jean Theodoor Royer. Since then gifts and purchases have added significantly to the collection. Among the important acquisitions were Dr Albertus Welcker’s private collection in 1957 and that of Adolph Staring in 1969. The university still buys drawings, now mainly by contemporary artists.
The Seventeenth Century
Rembrandt, Lievens, Van Goyen, Van Ostade: seventeenth-century Dutch art is a succession of famous names. The seventeenth century is rightly called the Golden Age—seldom has the standard of art been so high. A careful selection has been made from the 1,500 seventeenth-century drawings in the University of Leiden’s collection for the exhibition in the Rembrandt House. It features the major genres: landscape and seascape, portrait, scenes from everyday life, figure studies and plants and animals.
One of the exhibition’s highlights is the study Rembrandt made for his etching Adam and Eve (1638). Mucius Scaevola before King Porsenna, the largest drawing by Jan Lievens, Rembrandt’s former friend in Leiden, is also exceptional. Also from Leiden are the portraits of a married couple by David Bailly. Among the landscapes there are eye-catching works by Simon de Vlieger and Anthonie Waterloo. In Haarlem, Leendert van der Cooghen drew an endearing head of a boy, while Cornelis Dusart made satirical drawings of the Catholic priesthood.
University of Leiden
The drawings come from the holdings of the University of Leiden, the only university in the Netherlands with a sizeable art collection. Used for education and research and well-known to art historians and other academics, the drawings are for the most part unknown to the general public. The collection is part of the Special Collections of the University of Leiden’s Libraries.
Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue edited by Jef Schaeps and Jaap van der Veen, in which all the drawings on display in the Rembrandt House will be described and illustrated in colour. The introduction provides a detailed description of the development of the University of Leiden’s collection. The book is published by Leiden University Press and can be purchased in the museum shop, in bookshops and from the publisher.