CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Unknown Holland: pictures restored with support of the Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands Foundation

Exhibition: 13 April - 10 May 2009

From the Museum website, 18 June 2009

On 13 April 2009, in the Picket Hall, as a part of the traditional ceremony in honour of the Patron’s Birthday, the exhibition under the name “Unknown Holland. Paintings by the XVII century craftsmen restored with financial support of the Foundation Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands” was opened.

In recent years the Hermitage has been systematically implementing a project called “The Peter Gallery”, which will facilitate a considerable expansion of the Dutch painting exhibition. As soon as it is completed, the halls will be replenished with more than one hundred forty paintings which used to be kept in the museum repository. The restoration of these paintings became possible thanks to the financial support of the Foundation Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands, which has actively favoured the Hermitage projects since 1994. At this date they have raised funds for restoration of all the paintings for the coming exhibition in the Peter Gallery.

As for the present exhibition, a number of paintings have been selected from among those which are intended to find their place in the Peter Gallery in due time. All of the six works were created in the middle – second half of the XVII century and reflect the genre profusion characteristic of the Dutch painting.

The theme for the classicism composition by Casper Casteleyns was based on an episode of the play by Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft Granida. It narrates about a Persian princess Granida, who lost her way when hunting and then encountered a herdsman named Daifilo in the forest. Tormented with thirst the heroine asked the youth to let her drink. Daifilo handed a shell with water to the princess and at that very moment conceived love for her forgetting his beloved Dorilea. According to Casteleyns’ interpretation this scene takes place against the background of a park decorated with sculpture.

The painting by Cornelis Belt imaging the Big Square in Haarlem may only at first sight appear to be a scenic landscape painting, but there is a significant historical event imprinted on it – the promulgation in 1648 of the Peace of Munster, which put an end to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe.

Three monumental paintings by Melchior de Hondecoeter, Jan Weenix and Matheus Bloem form an independent block of the exhibition. Similar views of ‘hunter’s trophies’ represent a special sort of still-life which gained much popularity in Holland of the second half of the XVII century. These spectacular compositions were created to decorate grand interior scenes (zaalstuk), while hunting was the privilege enjoyed by family aristocracy.

At last, exhibited in the museum halls for the first time, “View on the Rhine” by Herman Saftleven Junior presents a splendid sample of panoramic fantastic landscape, wherein the artist introduced some realistic topographic elements, which he had drawn when travelling along the Rhine in 1640-1650-s. After the restoration, which relieved the author’s painting from later retouching and yellow cloudy varnish, the colour of the painting and abundance of finely painted details appeared in their full blaze of beauty.

The materials have been provided by the chief research associate of the Department of Western European Art, Irina Sokolova.