CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Between the Lines: Prints from Leiden University in Museum Bredius

25 April - 30 June 2024

Between the Lines: Prints from Leiden University in Museum Bredius

Exhibition: 25 April - 30 June 2024

At Museum Bredius, 21 prints made by Dutch artists between 1580 and 1700 are on loan from the Leiden University Special Collections. All prints depict scenes and motifs that also appear in the paintings of the museum, such as a woman baking pancakes, musical companies, merry drinkers, quacks, and mythological figures. Often these stories and motifs display a deeper meaning, although it is not always obvious at first glance. A closer look is needed to read between the lines.

For the prints, those lines can be taken quite literally. After all, these depictions are composed of black ink lines on paper. In this exhibition, engravings and etchings are on display. For both printing techniques, the image is cut into a copper plate before being transferred onto paper. The design drawing for this was often made by an artist other than the one who made the engraving or etching. The design drawing was often made by an artist, whereas the engraving of the plate was done by a specialized engraver or etcher. That is why you will sometimes find two artists’ names on one print.

The image in the copper plate was inked and then printed with a printing press, resulting in a mirrored image of the original design. Hundreds of copies could be made from one copper plate. As a result, prints were much more affordable than paintings and became widespread. They were bought by a wide audience, including artists. Prints were an effective means of spreading ideas about behavior and morality, as well as knowledge about nature and classical antiquity.

This exhibition was curated by a group of international students from the master Arts and Culture. For their course “Art on Paper”, each student chose a painting from Museum Bredius and two prints from the Leiden University Special Collections. The aim was to connect themes, visual traditions, and meanings in Dutch paintings and prints from the period 1580-1700.

Leiden University owns more than 100,000 prints and 12,000 drawings that were brought together over a period of two hundred years. For students, artworks from this collection are inspiring sources of research. In this exhibition they invite you to tag along.