Oranje's erfgoed in het Mauritsliuis

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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The nucleus of the collection of paintings in the Mauritshuis around 130 pictures - came from the hereditary stadholder Prince William v. It is widely believed to have become, the property of the State at the beginning of the 19th century, but how this happened is still. unclear. A hand-written notebook on this subject, compiled in 1876 by - the director Jonkheer J. K. L. de Jonge is in the archives of the Mauritshuis Note 4). On this basis a clnsor systematic and chronological investigation has been carried out into the stadholder's. property rights in respect of his collectcons and the changes these underwent between 1795 and 1816. Royal decrees and other documents of the period 1814- 16 in particular giae a clearer picture of whal look place. 0n 18 January 1795 William V (Fig. 2) left the Netherlands and fled to England. On 22 January the Dutch Republic was occupied by French armies. Since France had declared war on the stadholder, the ownership of all his propergy in the Netherlands, passed to France, in accordance with the laws of war of the time. His famous art collections on the Builerth of in. The Hague were taken to Paris, but the remaining art objects, distributed over his various houses, remained in the Netherlands. On 16 May 1795 the French concluded a treaty with the Batavian Republic, recognizing it as an independent power. All the properties of William v in the Netehrlands but not those taken to France, were made over to the Republic (Note 14), which proceeded to sell objects from the collections, at least seven sales taking place until 1798 (Note 15). A plan was then evolved to bring the remaining treasures together in a museum in emulation of the French. On the initiative of J. A. Gogel, the Nationale Konst-Galerij', the first national museum in the .Netherlands, was estahlished in The Hague and opened to the public on ,31 May 1800. Nothing was ever sold from lhe former stadholder's library and in 1798 a Nationale Bibliotheek was founded as well. In 1796, quite soon after the French had carried off the Stadholder, possessions to Paris or made them over to the Batavian Republic, indemnification was already mentioned (Note 19). However, only in the Trealy of Amiens of 180 and a subaequent agreement, between France ararl Prussia of 1 802, in which the Prince of Orarage renounced his and his heirs' rights in the Netherlands, did Prussia provide a certain compensation in the form of l.artds in Weslphalia and Swabia (Note 24) - William v left the management of these areas to the hereditary prince , who had already been involved in the problems oncerning his father's former possessions. In 1804 the Balavian Republic offered a sum of five million guilders 10 plenipotentiaries of the prince as compensation for the sequestrated titles and goods, including furniture, paintings, books and rarities'. This was accepted (Notes 27, 28), but the agreement was never carried out as the Batavian Republic failed to ratify the payment. In the meantime the Nationale Bibliolkeek and the Nationale Konst-Galerij had begun to develop, albeit at first on a small scale. The advent of Louis Napoleon as King of Hollarad in 1806 brought great changes. He made a start on a structured art policy. In 1806 the library, now called `Royal', was moved to the Mauritshuis and in 1808 the collectiorts in The Hague were transferred to Amsterdam, where a Koninklijk Museum was founded, which was housed in the former town hall. This collection was subsequertly to remain in Amsterdam, forming the nucleus of the later Rijksmuseum. The library too was intended to be transferred to Amsterdam, but this never happened and it remained in the Mauritshuis until 1819. Both institutions underwent a great expansion in the period 1806-10, the library's holdings increasing from around 10,000 to over 45,000 books and objects, while the museum acquired a number of paintings, the most important being Rembrandt's Night Watch and Syndics, which were placed in the new museum by the City of Amsterdam in 1808 (Note 44). In 1810 the Netherlands was incorporated into France. In the art field there was now a complete standstill and in 1812 books and in particular prints (around 11,000 of them) were again taken from The Hague to Paris. In November 1813 the French dominion was ended and on 2 December the hereditary prince, William Frederick, was declared sovereign ruler. He was inaugurated as constitutional monarch on 30 March 1814. On January 3rd the provisional council of The Hague had already declared that the city was in (unlawful' possession of a library, a collection of paintings, prints and other objects of art and science and requested the king tot take them back. The war was over and what had been confiscated from William under the laws of war could now be given back, but this never happened. By Royal Decree of 14 January 1814 Mr. ( later Baron) A. J. C. Lampsins (Fig. I ) was commissioned to come to an understanding with the burgomaster of The Hague over this transfer, to bring out a report on the condition of the objects and to formulate a proposal on the measures to be taken (Note 48). On 17 January Lampsins submitted a memorandum on the taking over of the Library as the private property of His Royal Highness the Sovereign of the United Netherlartds'. Although Lampsins was granted the right to bear the title 'Interim Director of the Royal Library' by a Royal Decree of 9 February 1814, William I did not propose to pay The costs himself ; they were to be carried by the Home Office (Note 52). Thus he left the question of ownership undecided. On 18 April Lampsins brought out a detailed report on all the measures to be taken (Appendix IIa ) . His suggestion was that the objects, formerly belonging to the stadholder should be removed from the former royal museum, now the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam and to return the 'Library', as the collectiort of books, paintings and prints in The Hague was called, to the place where they had been in 1795. Once again the king's reaction was not very clear. Among other things, he said that he wanted to wait until it was known how extensive the restitution of objects from Paris would be and to consider in zvhich scholarly context the collections would best, fit (Note 54) . While the ownership of the former collections of Prince William I was thus left undecided, a ruling had already been enacted in respect of the immovable property. By the Constitution of 1814, which came into effect on 30 March, the king was granted a high income, partly to make up for the losses he had sulfered. A Royal Decree of 22 January 1815 does, however, imply that William had renounced the right to his, father's collections, for he let it be known that he had not only accepted the situation that had developed in the Netherlands since 1795, but also wished it to be continued (Note 62). The restitution of the collections carried off to France could only be considered in its entirety after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815- This was no simple matter, but in the end most, though not all, of the former possessions of William V were returned to the Netherlands. What was not or could not be recovered then (inc.uding 66 paintings, for example) is still in France today (Note 71)- On 20 November 1815 127 paintings, including Paulus Potter's Young Bull (Fig. 15), made a ceremonial entry into The Hague. But on 6 October, before anything had actually been returned, it had already been stipulated by Royal Decree that the control of the objects would hence forlh be in the hands of the State (Note 72). Thus William I no longer regarded his father's collections as the private property of the House of Orange, but he did retain the right to decide on the fulure destiny of the... painting.s and objects of art and science'. For the time being the paintings were replaced in the Gallery on the Buitenhof, from which they had been removed in 1795 (Note 73). In November 1815 the natural history collection was made the property of Leiden University (Note 74), becoming the basis for the Rijksmuseum voor Natuurlijke Historie, The print collection, part of the Royal Library in The Hague, was exchanged in May 1816 for the national collectiort of coins and medals, part of the Rijksmuseum. As of 1 Jufy 1816 directors were appointed for four different institutions in The Hague, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (with the Koninklijk Penningkabinet ) , the Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen and the Yoninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamheden (Note 80) . From that time these institutions led independenl lives. The king continued to lake a keen interest in them and not merely in respect of collecting Their accommodation in The Hague was already too cramped in 1816. By a Royal Decree of 18 May 1819 the Hotel Huguetan, the former palace of the. crown prince on Lange Voorhout, was earmarked for the Koninklijke Bibliotheek and the Koninklijk Penningkabinet (Note 87) . while at the king's behest the Mauritshuis, which had been rented up to then, was bought by the State on 27 March 1820 and on IO July allotted to the Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen and the Koninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamheden (Note 88). Only the Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen is still in the place assigned to it by William and the collection has meanwhile become so identified with its home that it is generally known as the Mauritshui.s'. William i's most important gift was made in July 1816,just after the foundation of the four royal institutions, when he had deposited most of the objects that his father had taken first to England and later to Oranienstein in the Koninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamheden. The rarities (Fig. 17), curios (Fig. 18) and paintings (Fig. 19), remained there (Note 84), while the other art objects were sorted and divided between the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the manuscripts and books) and the koninklijk Penningkabinet (the cameos and gems) (Note 85). In 1819 and 182 the king also gave the Koninklijke Bibliotheek an important part of the Nassau Library from the castle at Dillenburg. Clearly he is one of the European monarchs who in the second half of the 18th and the 19th century made their collectiorts accessible to the public, and thus laid the foundatinns of many of today's museums. But William 1 also made purchases on behalf of the institutions he had created. For the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, for example, he had the 'Tweede Historiebijbel', made in Utrecht around 1430, bought in Louvain in 1829 for 1, 134 guilders (Pigs.30,3 I, Note 92). For the Koninkijk Penningkabinet he bought a collection of 62 gems and four cameos , for ,50,000 guilders in 1819. This had belonged to the philosopher Frans Hemsterhuis, the keeper of his father's cabinet of antiquities (Note 95) . The most spectacular acquisition. for the Penninukabinet., however, was a cameo carved in onyx, a late Roman work with the Triumph of Claudius, which the king bought in 1823 for 50,000 guilders, an enormous sum in those days. The Koninklijk Kabinet van Zeldzaamhedert also received princely gifts. In 1821- the so-called doll's house of Tzar Peter was bought out of the king's special funds for 2.800 guilders (Figs.33, 34, ,Note 97) , while even in 1838, when no more money was available for art, unnecessary expenditure on luxury' the Von Siebold ethnographical collection was bought at the king's behest for over 55,000 guilders (Note 98). The Koninklijk Kabinel van Schilderyen must have been close to the hearl of the king, who regarded it as an extension of the palace (Notes 99, 100) . The old master paintings he acquzred for it are among the most important in the collection (the modern pictures, not dealt with here, were transferred to the Paviljoen Welgelegen in Haarlem in 1838, Note 104). For instance, in 1820 he bought a portrait of Johan Maurice of Nassau (Fig.35)., while in 1822, against the advice of the then director, he bought Vermeer' s View of Delft for 2,900 guilders (Fig.36, Note 105) and in 1827 it was made known, from Brussels that His Majesty had recommended the purchase of Rogier van der Weyden's Lamentation (Fig.37) . The most spectacular example of the king's love for 'his' museum, however, is the purchase in 1828 of Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp for 32,000 guilders. The director of the Rijksmuseum, C. Apostool, cortsidered this Rembrandt'sfinest painting and had already drawn attention to it in 1817, At the king'.s behest the picture, the purchase of which had been financed in part by the sale of a number of painlings from. the Rijksmuseum, was placed in the Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen in The Hague. On his accession King William I had left the art objects which had become state propery after being ceded by the French to the Batavian Republic in 1795 as they were. He reclaimed the collections carried off to France as his own property, but it can be deduced from the Royal Decrees of 1815 and 1816 that it Was his wish that they should be made over to the State, including those paintings that form the nucleus of the collection in the Mauritshuis. In addition, in 1816 he handed over many art objects which his father had taken with him into exile. His son, William II, later accepted this, after having the matter investigated (Note 107 and Appendix IV). Thus William I'S munificence proves to have been much more extensive than has ever been realized.

Oranje's erfgoed in het Mauritsliuis

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries



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