CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

A masterwork restored: The Feast of Belshazzar by Pieter de Grebber

Information from CODART-Member Justus Lange, Chief curator, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel

The Haarlem painter Pieter de Grebber (ca. 1600–1653) is known as an important mediator between Flemish and Dutch art. It was Albert Blankert who recognized De Grebber’s painting Feast of Belshazzar from 1625 in Kassel as a key piece for understanding Dutch classicism. The story of King Belshazzar has fascinated painters since the 16th century and gave the opportunity to depict a biblical history filled with highly dramatized emotional expression. De Grebber literally puts this story on stage, using a theater-like mode of enactment and emphasizes the moment of fearful recognition of divine judgment. Not only by composition but especially by creating splendorous textures of exotic garments, gold, silver and gems sparkling in light De Grebber fully demonstrates his artistic talents.

Due to the painting’s discolored varnish, old retouching and old cracks it was very difficult to appraise De Grebber’s brushwork. After more than two years of careful restoration funded by the “Uta und Karl Peters Kunststiftung” De Grebber’s masterpiece regained again its fresh colors and full splendor. From the 2nd of June it will be back on display in the Old Masters Gallery in Kassel and hangs again side by side with masterworks by Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Rubens.