People have always collected portraits of their idols. During the eighteenth century, portraits of writers became fashionable as collector’s items. Dutch readers became increasingly interested in the lives and appearances of writers. Sometimes they longed to meet their idols face to face so much that a veritable portrait mania even developed.
Teylers Museum houses the largest surviving collection of writer’s portraits. More than 1,800 drawings and prints from the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been brought together here. The compilers of this Panpoëticon Batavûm, literally ‘all the Dutch poets’, aimed to create a collection that was as complete as possible, with all poets – male and female, renowned and less well-known – represented by their portraits. Numerous letters, autographs and biographical sketches of and by these writers were also collected.
Reflecting this diversity, the exhibition presents portraits of a variety of writers, from Joost van den Vondel and Multatuli to Betje Wolff. These include some unique works by Old Masters, such as Jan Lievens, Philips Koninck and David Bailly.