The Mauritshuis is one of the first examples of Dutch classicism; it is also one of the most perfect. Jacob van Campen was the founder of this architectural style, which flourished between 1640 and 1665. Dutch classicism was based on the principles of classical Greek and Roman architecture. Another important source of inspiration for Van Campen was the work of the 16th-century Northern Italian architects Scamozzi and Palladio.
The use of elements derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, such as pilasters, Ionic capitals, cornices and tympana is characteristic of the Classisit style. Because the Mauritshuis stands on its own, Van Campen was able to realise the classicist ideal in a truly three-dimensional way. All four sides feature large, two-storey-high pilasters, extending from the foundation to the roof. It was the first time that this ‘colossal order’ – an invention of Palladio – was applied to the façade of a building in Holland. The pilasters give the building both a monumental aspect and the air of a Roman temple.