CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Verborgen verhalen: oude meesters uit eigen collectie

Hidden stories: old masters from the museum's collection Exhibition: 2 July - 4 September 2011

Double-dealing, understanding, love, loyalty, murder and manslaughter. These are the subjects of superb old master paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including several exceptional ones, Circumstances prevented them from going on display for a long time.

The special works from our own collection have one thing in common: they all depict stories from the Bible. There was a growing interest in biblical stories in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Paintings had mainly served as aids to religious devotions in the middle ages, but by the sixteenth century artists were focusing increasingly on thrilling events from the Bible.

History painting was regarded as the highest form of art in the Dutch Golden Age. It gave painters the opportunity to show off their knowledge of the old stories. At first the emphasis was on the story as a whole, many details of which were illustrated. Later, painters isolated key emotional moments – a nasty fright or a meeting with an angel.

The dramatic, exciting, beautiful or sad stories were ideal for depicting passionate or restrained emotions. They demanded the utmost from the artists as regards knowledge of the narrative, empathy, creativity and technique. It was above all Rembrandt and his pupils who relished the challenge.