CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

CODART TWAALF Congress: market of ideas

Market of ideas

Burning issues

-Full- 1. Your own project…in your OWN time?
Adriaan Waiboer, curator of Northern European Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

In addition to their curatorial duties, many curators work on personal projects. Some museums perceive research leading to a curator’s own book, article or documentary as a means of raising the status of the employee as well as the employer. Others permit curators to work on their own projects, but only if they do so in their own time. In reality, the line between research conducted for oneself or the museum is often blurred; after all, a book, article, or documentary can be tangentially related to an exhibition or a museum’s collection. What is the best way of dealing with this issue? Can curators request one day a week to do their own work? What are the arguments for persuading an employer to give them time off? And, how does one deal with copyright issues if a project is completed during normal working hours?

2. Forgotten objects: the gap between the fine and applied arts
Dirk Jan Biemond, curator of gold and silver, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum’s collection of gold and silver is one of the largest of its kind in the world. A catalogue of the silver made in Holland and Zeeland is currently in preparation. Among the objects made in Haarlem is a signed and dated silver medallion engraved by Hendrick Goltzius. Part of the collection since the late 19th century, this work of art has almost never been published. This is peculiar in itself: after all, prints of the medallion occur in every print catalogue on Goltzius. Moreover, the silver original is also omitted in most publications on Dutch silver. The same can be said of other objects, which by today’s standards could be considered as fine and applied art.
Why are these objects not considered an important part of the oeuvre of the artist? Is it due to the modern division between fine and applied art, or should the diversification of art-historical specialization be blamed?

3. Describing drawing techniques
Thera Folmer-von Oven, curator, private collection

When writing entries for a drawings catalogue, I always deliberate on the same part of my text: how to describe the different techniques used in drawings (pen, brush, ink, etc.) in a logical and systematic way. The important reference-books on drawing-practice do not pay attention to this “cataloguing” question and as a result art historians all have their own method or routine. Obviously, there is more than one possibility to describe the technique and this sometimes causes confusion. For example: a drawing done in pen and ink with grey wash may be described as pen in ink, with grey wash, or as pen in ink, brush in grey. In the latter case it is not clear if the brush is used for the composition, or the wash, or for both. If the drawing is not reproduced, you have to guess.
Producing a sound technical description may not be the most spectacular part of writing a catalogue, but it is important to do it in a systematic way. Moreover, for digital purposes one has to think about the method anyhow.
I would like to discuss this with my colleagues on the basis of examples from practice.

-Full- 4. CODARTmodern Yes or No?
Ludo van Halem, curator of 20th-century art, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Gerdien Verschoor, director, CODART, The Hague

CODART’s membership concentrates on curators in charge of collections of “old” Dutch and Flemish art. Even so, lately CODART has been increasingly approached by Dutch curators of modern (Dutch) art interested in joining and also establishing an international network. Are curators abroad really in need of such a network? Why does CODART concentrate solely on Old Masters? Is it time for a CODARTmodern? Is it CODART’s role to build up such a network, or can CODART serve as a successful model for other new networks? We look forward to your views on these questions.

5. Join the CODART Young Curator’s Group!
Alice Taatgen, assistant curator, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen

While many young art historians dream of becoming a curator, they often run into difficulty finding museum-based jobs. After an internship in the course of their studies, they are sent into the world to fend for themselves. This poses a problem for students and represents a missed opportunity for the curatorial realm, which after investing time and effort in new people fails to use their newly gained experience. This session focuses on how CODART specifically can aid aspiring young curators. One idea is to create a CODART young talent group: a small selection of the most gifted students, handpicked and actively introduced into the network by the curators themselves. But what exactly would be the goal of such a group? Who should be admitted and how should they be scouted? And of course, what should such a group do? A logical move would be for it to participate in the congresses or present itself on the CODART website. But perhaps there are other options. The session will open with a brief introduction to the topic, followed by a discussion of the pros and cons of forming such a group. The session aims to establish a profile of the group and its members to assist CODART in thinking about this topic in the future. Naturally, propositions and ideas other than a young curators’ group are more than welcome.


-Full- 6. For sale! Deaccession of the Museum aan het Vrijthof collection
Monique Dickhaut, Director/Curator and Patrick Rijs, Collection Manager, Museum aan het Vrijthof, Maastricht

In 1973 a museum was opened in the 16th-century Spanish Government building on Vrijthof Square in Maastricht. The museum’s permanent collection consists of the art and antiques owned by Mr. and Mrs. Wagner-de Wit, with additional purchases made by the Wagner-de Wit Foundation. The core collection was not assembled systematically and in fact contains works from a large number of divergent stylistic periods – from classical antiquity to the late 19th-century Hague School – and origins – ranging from Europe to the Far East. In the last 50 years significant purchases were made in the area of 18th-century Maastricht decorative art. Unlike the core collection, which has no connection whatsoever with the city of Maastricht, this new one is directly related to both the town and the region where the museum is located.
It has become clear that the museum only has a future if it continues on this chosen path and concentrates on becoming the municipal museum of Maastricht. On the one hand, this would mean that part of the Wagner-de Wit core collection is no longer in the appropriate place, and on the other hand, that an expansion of the Maastricht fine and decorative arts section of the collection is desirable. After careful consultation, the board of governors of the Wagner-de Wit Foundation has decided to sell the holdings of 16th- and 17th-century Southern Netherlandish painting which, as valuable as it is, cannot be exhibited within the museum’s present framework.

-Full- 7. A new museum concept for Luxembourg
Danièle Wagener, director, Villa Vauban – Musée d’art de la Ville de Luxembourg and Martina Sitt, head of the painting department, Hamburger Kunsthalle

In the spring of 2010, the Villa Vauban’s once privately owned art collection of mainly Dutch and Flemish works from the 17th to the 19th century will be displayed in a restored setting, including a museum extension, in the middle of a park in Luxembourg. Specific exhibitions, selected events and a pertinent communication strategy will highlight the variety of the collections. Individual works will be contextualized and background information provided. Where does the painting hail from (purchase appeal)? What is the history of its provenance? What was its original setting and how is it presented here? What is its condition? Did it influence other works of art? How is it perceived and received, etc.? The objective is to profile the museum as a stand-alone institution with a charm of its own and to underline its specific value as a part of the Luxembourg cultural heritage.
We would like to discuss this concept with our CODART colleagues. What is your experience with developing this kind of museum concept? Do you have advice or ideas on how to best realize these plans?


8. New evidence on Justus van Egmont?
Prisca Valkeneers, scientific assistant, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum of Fine Arts), Antwerp

Born in Leiden Justus van Egmont (1602-1674) first trained in the workshop of Caspar van den Hoecke. After sojourning in Italy he is documented as a pupil of Rubens’ workshop in Antwerp. Justus van Egmont contributed significantly to the Rubens “Medici Cycle” in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, however the matter of attribution and distinguishing the different hands is still unresolved. The majority of Justus’ oeuvre consists of portraits for the French nobility. Upon his return from Paris in the 1650s, he began working on designs for major series of tapestries. Although his work is found in leading collections throughout Europe (Warsaw, Paris, Nancy, etc.), the artist has yet to receive the kind of monographic attention he deserves.
When I began investigating Justus van Egmont’s oeuvre, key questions about his style arose. I would like to discuss one case study in particular. According to an inventory list of 1776, the painting Venus giving arms to Aeneas (Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. nr. 2901) is by Justus van Egmont. But can it actually be attributed to him on stylistic grounds? It was part of a series of five paintings by different artists (Perrier and others) in the Cabinet de l’ Amour at the Hôtel Lambert in Paris, as is seen in an 18th-century print of the cabinet. In the depot of the Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (National Museum of Warsaw) are two other paintings with identical measurements, one of which is clearly in Perrier’s style. Can Justus van Egmont’s style be discerned in the other painting? The subjects of the Warsaw paintings are also derived from the Aeneid. I will present the state of my research incorporating information gathered from my latest travels to Warsaw and Paris and from my study of Virgil’s Aeneid with respect to the sequence of the images. Subsequently, we can discuss the attribution of the two paintings and reconstruct the context of the series in the Cabinet de l’ Amour in Paris.


9. RKD, Netherlands institute for Art History
Suzanne Laemers, curator of 15th- and 16th-century Netherlandish painting and Elly Klück, assistant, department of Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings and drawings, RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History), The Hague

During the CODART ELF congress held in Ghent, it was obvious that many of the members are well acquainted with the RKD and visit the Institute on a regular basis. However, it was also clear that others were not yet familiar with the possibilities afforded by the RKD’s visual documentation, archives and library. Since one of the RKD’s main goals is to serve as a research tool for museum curators, we would like to present ourselves to those members interested in learning more about our collections and how to use them

-Full- 10. Inter-institutional research resource on paintings by Rembrandt
Wietske Donkersloot, coordinator of technical documentation department, RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History), The Hague

Presently, the RKD and the Mauritshuis, both in The Hague, are developing a research resource on Rembrandt. This pilot project, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York, aims to advance the fields of conservation and art history. The Rembrandt database will make conservation and technical documentation electronically accessible. The existing RKD databases are being adapted and expanded into a multilingual information network in which conservation and technical documentation, scientific data and art historical information will be integrated for dissemination at different levels of interpretation. The project focuses on a test group of 19 paintings, by or (formerly) attributed to Rembrandt in the collection of the Mauritshuis, together with a selection of Rembrandt paintings from other important collections. The goal is to create a system capable of storing and presenting conservation and technical documentation of paintings by Rembrandt from various museums and institutions.
This will be the first presentation of the project to a larger community of curators working in the field of art from the Low Countries. We hope to give our project greater exposure at the CODART TWAALF market of ideas and get your feedback on its proposed structure, content and functionalities.

-Full- 11.  The Rubens database of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Bert Schepers, scientific collaborator, Rubens documentation/database and Lies Van de Cappelle, scientific collaborator, online catalogue management, Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium), Brussels

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium own a remarkable collection of approximately 50 works either painted by Rubens himself or in collaboration with his workshop, as well as paintings produced together with renowned colleagues such as Jan Brueghel the Elder and Cornelis de Vos. This collection, which contains oil sketches, cabinet paintings and altarpieces, reflects the most productive period in Rubens’ career, when his creative genius and entrepreneurial spirit were at their best (1614-40). A team of museum conservators and specialized researchers has spent four years (2004-07) subjecting each and every one of these works to thorough analysis. The at times surprising results were presented at the exhibition Rubens: A Genius at Work (14 September 2007 – 27 January 2008), which situated these paintings in the context of their artistic genesis for the first time. Following the great success of the exhibition, the Brussels museum decided to make the full range of new findings and insights available to the public by means of a multilingual internet database (Dutch, French and English). The Rubens database is currently being developed within the framework of Fabritius, the museum’s collection database (, and serves as a test case for integrating a broad range of textual and visual documentation of both art-historical and technical interest in an online research tool.

-Full- 12. Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels (IRPA-KIK)
Pierre-Yves Kairis, head of section in the Documentation Department, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels

IRPA-KIK is part of the group of so-called Belgian “scientific federal institutions” in Brussels. It was founded in 1948 as one of the first interdisciplinary centers for studying and conserving the artistic heritage. In our institute, chemists, physicians, conservators-restorers, art historians and photographers work together with a single aim, namely to examine and protect cultural artifacts in Belgium in a variety of ways. Some of these are specific to art historians, for instance the establishment of a photographic inventory of works of art and research on Belgian art. The Photographic Archives contains close to 1,000,000 photographs of the Belgian cultural heritage, each photograph stored with its negative. We also introduced annual seminars on art history, each concerning a single aspect of Belgian art. Furthermore, we developed tools for art historians with the web portal BALAT (Belgian Art Links and Tools). It includes the important online Dictionary of Belgian Painters as well as a list of Belgian researchers and institutions specialized in the history of art. Our institute also comprises the famous center devoted to the Flemish Primitives, which publishes the Corpus of Fifteenth-Century Painting in the Southern Netherlands and the Principality of Liège. In the past decade, IRPA-KIK has developed numerous activities in the field of art history, different aspects of which will be presented at the market of ideas session.