UNESCO, part of the United Nations, recently recognized the traditional art of falconry as intangible cultural heritage. In celebration, the Rijksmuseum will present around thirty 15th, 16th and 17th century prints depicting the prestigious activity of falconry from its collection. The prints, including scenes by the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet, Lucas van Leyden, Hendrick Goltzius and Hans Burgkmair the elder, demonstrate just how rich the tradition of falconry is, as well as the ability of falconers to capture the imagination.
In medieval Europe, falconry was an activity reserved for royalty and nobility and came to be a form of entertainment intertwined with a genteel, courtly lifestyle. In European courts a remarkably large number of falconers, who trained and cared for the birds, were from the Netherlands. For centuries, the village of Valkenswaard, located in the Kempen region of the province of Noord-Brabant, and situated along the migration route of the peregrine falcon, was a key supplier of birds and falconers. In the prints, the falconers are often depicted as courtly lovers, noble saints or vain libertines. The prints will be displayed among several historical artefacts relating to falconry from the private collections of falconers.