CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Power of the Throne

14 October 2023 - 10 March 2024

Power of the Throne

Exhibition: 14 October 2023 - 10 March 2024

A throne is not just a piece of furniture: it is a symbol of special power and elevation. Besides representing royal or divine authority, a throne represents wisdom, justice and stability. From the opulent to the subdued, from classical to contemporary, from actual to fantasized, the exhibition Power of the Throne offers an insight into the meaning and evolution of this unique and loaded piece of furniture. From the glorious chairs of kings and queens to the seats of leaders and fairy tale characters, Power of the Throne will question what ‘makes a chair a throne?’, ‘what does it mean for the person sitting on it?’ and ‘what influence do the people close to the throne have?’

The exhibition sheds light on the contemporary relevance of thrones in the realm of the theater of power. Autocratic regimes with ‘strong leaders’ skillfully adopt the ancient symbolism of the throne to underscore their authority, while at the same time, historical examples show that there are limits to power: cruelty, incompetence or obsolete power can lead to calls for change.

Claes Jacobsz van der Heck (ca. 1575/1581-1652), Judgement of Salomon, 1616
Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar

One of the royal highlights of this exhibition is the throne from the Ridderzaal, or Knights’ Hall, in The Hague. The throne was designed by architect Pierre Cuypers in neo-gothic style in 1904. Every year, King Willem-Alexander reads the ‘Troonrede’ seated on this very throne. Other important loans are for example an Ashanti throne, (nineteenth century) originating from the Ashanti Empire in what is now modern-day Ghana (Wereldmuseum), two wonderful representations of Mary as the Seat of Wisdom – an anonymous medieval sculpture (1230-1239) from the Maasland region (Catharijneconvent) and a richly colored painting by Adriaan Isenbrant from 1530 (Boijmans Van Beuningen)-,  an antique limestone stone carving representing Tiglath-Pileser III, King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, seated on a high throne from around 745-727 BC (National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden) and a painting by Claes Jacobsz. van der Heck (1616) showing the Judgement of King Solomon (Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar). The painting once hung in Alkmaar town hall, in a room where the magistrates’ court sat, as a reminder to the judges to exercise wisdom. And also various ‘modern’ thrones from Vitra Design Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Annette de Vries and Niels Coppes.