From the palace website, 31 May 2011
In the summer of 2011, the Royal Palace in Amsterdam is organising an exhibition entitled ‘The Batavian Commissions’. At centre stage of the exhibition is a series of paintings on the Batavian Revolt, hanging in the gallery arches of the former town hall.
The construction and decoration programme of the Amsterdam Town Hall was the most prestigious artistic project in the Golden Age. The local assignment attracted artists and artisans from the Northern and Southern Netherlands, who contributed collectively toward what was considered the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. Smaller projects were also commissioned as part of the construction project, such as the series of paintings in the gallery arches of the Citizens’ Hall.
Today, the four galleries are still adorned with six large paintings by Govert Flinck, Juriaan Ovens, Jan Lievens, Jacob Jordaens and Anthony de Groot. Initially, Flinck was the only artist to be commissioned by the burgomasters of Amsterdam in 1659. The theme chosen by the burgomasters for the series was the uprising of the Batavians against Roman rule.
However, Flinck died unexpectedly in 1660 before the series was complete. In a bid to win the commission, various artists created studies of the different scenes from the Batavian Revolt. Jan Lievens, Juriaan Ovens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Ferdinand Bol and Jacob Jordaens all competed. The project came to an unfortunate end, however. Due to a shortage of money and painting issues, only six of the eight arches were eventually filled and a smaller version of Rembrandt’s painting disappeared to Sweden.
What is the story behind the paintings and the artists who competed in the project? Which paintings are hanging and which are not? How would it be if Rembrandt’s painting were also to hang in the gallery? All of these questions are addressed in the exhibition by means of preliminary studies, light projections and the completed pieces that still hang in the Amsterdam’s Royal Palace today.
The exhibition is a joint venture between Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg and the University of Amsterdam. The idea for the exhibition was conceived during the restoration of the paintings between 2005 and 2009. In addition to the exhibition at the Royal Palace, a presentation will be given at the UvA ErfgoedLab in the summer, focusing on the recent restoration work, the new discoveries and the ethics of restoration.