Exhibition: In and Out of Storage
From 4 February until 8 May 2016 we will display works usually hidden from public view.
The exhibition In and Out of Storage, presenting twenty-five paintings from our storage, intends to answer frequently asked questions including: what kinds of paintings are kept in storage, how did they end up there and why aren’t they hanging in the galleries? Highlights, as well as some low points, will be on show.
The Mauritshuis is famous for its Dutch and Flemish paintings dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, as well as a small number of German works from the sixteenth century. The collection offers a comprehensive and compact overview that. Most of the roughly 850 works in the collection are paintings, of which around 250 are on permanent display in the Mauritshuis itself, with a further 150 in the Prince William V Gallery. In addition, 150 works are on long-term loan to museums in the Netherlands and abroad.
Only 300 remain behind closed doors in storage. These works are often used to replace pieces when, for example they require have to conservation treatment or are loaned to another museum for an exhibition. Yet it seems a shame that these works are never, or rarely, put on display. This is why the Mauritshuis has decided to show a selection of the best and worst works which will be taken off their racks especially for the occasion.
Circle of Dirk Bouts, The Resurrection of Christ, c. 1480
The storage pieces that you can see in this exhibition were all selected by us. But we have saved a spot for your favourite storage piece. What would you have chosen? Which painting do you think deserves to come out of storage for a while?
The work with the most votes will be displayed in the exhibition. Meanwhile the vote continues. The most popular painting at the end of the exhibition will be given a temporary place in the Mauritshuis's permanent collection.
Why in storage?
A selection of twenty-five paintings will be presented in the exhibition. The central question is always: why are those works not on display in the galleries?
The selection of paintings contains a number of surprises: Andy Warhol, for example, is probably not a name you would associate with the Mauritshuis. His Portrait of Queen Beatrix was purchased in 1986 since it is customary in Dutch government buildings to have a portrait of the head of state displayed.
Some paintings, such as an anonymous small work on copper depicting Simeon and the Christ Child, will never leave storage because they are simply not good enough to be put on show. Others cannot be displayed because they are in such poor condition. The Portrait of a Man by Karel Slabbaert, for example, hung in less than ideal conditions for many years in the then Dutch East Indies. Among other problems, the extreme climate caused the painting’s paint layer to crack dramatically.
Dimensions, condition and numbers can also explain why a work does not form part of the permanent display at the Mauritshuis. For example, a series of 25 officer portraits by Hague painter Jan van Ravesteyn dating from the early seventeenth century will be displayed in its entirety for the first time since the eighteenth century.
Sometimes a celebrated purchase later reveals itself to be a ‘royal’ mistake. In 1821 King William I acquired a collection for the Mauritshuis that included works by great masters such as Raphael, Titian and Velázquez. Unfortunately it turned out to be a collection of inferior works that would quickly be sold on. One of the few paintings that did remain in the Mauritshuis was a highly optimistic attribution to Raphael. This Female Figure is now thought to be the work of an anonymous Italian artist and the painting has not left storage for many years.
A peek behind the scenes
Visitors to the exhibition will gain access to the inner workings of the Mauritshuis, where storage - the repository for items in the collection that for various reasons cannot be displayed to the public – plays a key role. The paintings selected for this exhibition will illuminate this aspect of museum practice.