Information from the museum, 9 September 2009
Last year the Centraal Museum had the unique opportunity to purchase an important drawing by the Utrecht artist Abraham Bloemaert (1566 – 1651). This drawing, which at that time had just been discovered, is the preliminary sketch for one of the most prominent pieces at the Centraal Museum: The adoration of the Magi from 1624. Not often can a drawing and painting by Abraham Bloemaert be paired up in this manner. For the first time in centuries the artist’s preliminary sketch and painting can be seen side by side, together with an illustration of the same piece from the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. From 19 September to 29 November these pieces will be shown, along with eight of Bloemaert’s finest drawings from the museum’s collection.
Sketch confirms hunch
The preliminary sketch is of great significance to Bloemaert’s complete body of drawings, for only a dozen of his preliminary sketches have passed down through time. The recently purchased sketch for The adoration of the Magi provides information on the painting’s original state. The print from Haarlem, with the same composition, had led one to believe that the right side of the painting was shortened at some point in history. On both the preliminary sketch and the illustration a young man is depicted from head to toe on the far right side, behind the three Magi. On the oil painting only half of this man’s head can be seen. It is most likely that the painting was shortened to make it fit nicely above a mantelpiece in a Utrecht household.
Abraham Bloemaert and the Old Masters collection
Abraham Bloemaert is considered to be the father of the Utrecht school of painting. Bloemaert owes his widespread fame to the impressive number of pupils he taught – an estimated one hundred -, as well as the numerous copies in print that have been made of his drawings and paintings by other artists. His subject matter ranged from mythological and religious themes to genre scenes and landscapes.
The Centraal Museum houses 16 paintings and 17 drawings, making it the largest Abraham Bloemaert collection in the world. These pieces are part of the museum’s Old Masters collection. Besides Bloemaert’s artwork, this collection includes work by Jan van Scorel and the Utrecht Caravaggists.
First extensive Abraham Bloemaert exhibition in autumn 2011
In the autumn of 2011, the Centraal Museum will be hosting an exhibition to outline Abraham Bloemaert’s full body of work. Such an extensive exhibition on Bloemaert’s work has never been shown before. Besides featuring dozens of paintings – many of which will be international loans –, the exhibition will also show numerous illustrations and drawings by this Utrecht master. A catalogue of essays written by various authors will also be published as part of the exhibition.
The purchase of the preliminary sketch for The adoration of the Magi was aided by Vereniging Rembrandt and the Mondriaan Foundation.