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Shifting Image - In search of Johan Maurits

4 April - 7 July 2019

The Mauritshuis was named after the man who had it built, Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau-Siegen. He was Governor-General of the colony Dutch Brazil, art lover, but he was also involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the exhibition Shifting Image - In search of Johan Maurits we examine how the complex history of Johan Maurits and Dutch Brazil can be seen from different perspectives.

Shifting Saturdays at the Mauritshuis

A host of activities

To accompany the exhibition Shifting Image we are organising a host of activities – from guided tours, lectures and workshops to dance and music performances and talk shows. These will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition, but also on two special Shifting Image Saturdays (11 May and 22 June).

See the full programme

About the exhibition

Taking the artworks exhibited in Shifting Image as our starting point, we highlight the diverse, often surprising stories they tell. Various authors offer their own narratives, creating a variegated image of the works of art and the stories they tell. At times these stories are entirely personal, but new research has also led to new insights.

Rembrandt’s Two African Men, for example, may also have a link with Dutch Brazil. Recent research has revealed that there was a community of free African men and women in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. When Dutch Brazil ceased to exist in 1654, the number of people in the Republic with African root rose. The two men Rembrandt painted had probably ended up in Amsterdam by way of the WIC – in slavery or as paid soldiers or sailors.

In addition to works of art from the museum collection, the modern replica of the bust of Johan Maurits (polyresin with marble grit, 1986) will also be on display in the exhibition. This bust was removed from the Mauritshuis foyer in 2017 and put into storage after a presentation about Johan Maurits was installed in the museum’s permanent collection. The removal of the bust triggered a public debate that attracted considerable media attention at the start of 2018. With the upcoming exhibition, the Mauritshuis seeks to place the present-day discussion within a broader context.



Rembrandt, Two African Men, 1661


Image of the exhibition room of Shifting Image

Research and discussion

The exhibition Shifting Image is not the end of a research programme, but a starting point. We are well aware that there are many research questions yet to be answered. This is why the Mauritshuis started a research project focussing on getting a more detailed insight into the financing of building the Mauritshuis (known as the ‘Sugar Palace’ in the seventeenth century) and on Johan Maurits’s influence on the trade in enslaved Africans. Please keep an eye on our website to be updated about the results of this research project.

Read more about the exhibition and the research project

The exhibition is realised in part due to the generous support of the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation, the Mondriaan Fund, the Johan Maurits Compagnie Foundation and the VSB Fund.

Programme around the exhibition Shifting Image
Programme around the exhibition Shifting Image

Lectures, talk shows, performances and much more.

Shifting Image Paintings
Shifting Image Paintings

More information about the paintings in this exhibition.

Mauritshuis History
Mauritshuis History

The history of the building and the collection.

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