In the middle of Franeker’s historic city center stands the Martenastins, a city castle built in 1506 by the nobleman Hessel van Martena – and today it is Museum Martena. The museum’s collection consists of paintings, drawings, prints, applied arts, and sculptures.
Museum Martena is a portrait museum par excellence, with portraits of people from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who played a role in the history of Franeker and Friesland. They include a series of professors’ portraits made between 1580 and 1800 – ninety-nine in total, commissioned for the Senate Chamber of the University of Franeker (1585-1811). Among the numerous portraitists was the court painter Bernardus Accama, whose brother Matthijs also contributed two portraits, though of much lesser quality. Most of the artists were anonymous. There is a particular focus on portraits of women in the collection. Museum Martena owns several major works by Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678), the first female student in the Netherlands, including self-portraits (works on paper and small oil paintings), woodcarvings, etchings, pieces of embroidery, and cut paper designs. The collection also contains paintings by Dutch artists such as Jan Janszoon de Stomme, Adriaen van Cronenburgh, Jacob Backer, and Jan Claesz.
In addition, the museum focuses on making the museum accessible through the other senses: taste, smell, touch, and hearing play an important role. Under the motto “Feel the Past,” Museum Martena tries to bring history closer to its visitors.
Manon Borst, Director (May 2023)