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  |   6. March 2018

HIGH SOCIETY

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Henry the Pious, Duke of Saxony, 1514. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. © Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Marten Soolmans, 1634. Acquired by the Dutch State for the Rijksmuseum. © Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Oopjen Coppit, 1634. Acquired by the French Republic for the Musée du Louvre. © Rijksmuseum

International Masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum

From 8 March to 3 June 2018, the Dutch national museum, the Rijksmuseum, is presenting “High Society”. Over thirty-five life-size portraits of powerful princes, eccentric aristocrats and fabulously wealthy citizens by the great masters of art history, including Cranach, Veronese, Velázquez, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Sargent, Munch and Manet will be displayed.

Never before has there been an exhibition dedicated to this most glamorous type of portrait: life-size, standing and full length. Loans have come from museums and private collections from all over the world including Paris, London, Florence, Vienna and Los Angeles.

The works vary from the early sixteenth to the start of the twentieth century. Masterpieces include the impressive portraits of Henry the Pious, Duke of Saxony, and Catherine, Countess of Mecklenburg by Lucas Cranach the Elder; the married couple Iseppo da Porto and Livia da Porto Thiene with their children by Veronese; Don Pedro de Barberana y Aparregui by Velázquez; Portrait Jane Fleming by Sir Joshua Reynolds; The Artist by Édouard Manet and of course Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt.

Most of the people portrayed are very lavishly dressed, giving the exhibition an overview of four centuries of fashion: from the tightly cut trousers and doublet from 1514 to the haute couture of the late nineteenth century.

Some of the subjects portrayed, however, are wearing fancy garments in an antique style. Another is wearing a kilt, yet another is not wearing trousers and one is almost completely naked.

Remarkably, those portrayed often have dogs with them. One man is accompanied by a lion. One couple have their children with them. The backgrounds can be richly decorated interiors, often with columns and/or curtains, or a summer or winter landscape.

One man is standing in front of an imaginary landscape with palm trees, while another is adopting a flamboyant pose in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

The “High Society” exhibition is the overture to the Year of Rembrandt in 2019, during which the 350th anniversary of the death of the artist will be extensively celebrated.

Rembrandt’s spectacular wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit are on display in the exhibition for the first time since their restoration – completed at the beginning of 2018.

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