For more than 130 years, the Rembrandt Society has been fulfilling its mission to preserve unique paintings for the Netherlands. With a collective patronage of twelve thousand art-loving members, it helps Dutch museums with special art purchases. The Mauritshuis was the first museum to benefit from the support of the Rembrandt Society.
Back in 1894, the Rembrandt Society already provided support to add an important piece to the Mauritshuis collection. Abraham Bredius, director of the Mauritshuis at the time, was able to acquire the painting Portrait of a Man from the Lespinette Family by Hans Memling for the Mauritshuis. The museum still receives support from the Rembrandt Society for the expansion of its collection of old masters.
Until now, a total of 52 paintings have been purchased with support from the Society. This includes crowd favourites such as Laughing Boy by Frans Hals, Vase with Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem, and Old woman and Boy with Candles by Peter Paul Rubens. The most recent purchase, Mountainous Landscape with Saint Jerome by Paul Bril, is from 2013. The Rembrandt Society has been an ally of the Mauritshuis for over a century.
Hans Memling, Portrait of a Man from the Lespinette Family, ca. 1485 - 1490
This panel with a praying man originally formed the right panel of a devotional diptych, of which the now lost left panel probably featured Mary and her child, to whom the portrayed man offered his prayers. The portrait was offered in 1894 at an auction as a painting from Antonello da Messina. However, Abraham Bredius understood immediately that it was in fact a work by Hans Memling, and he quickly seized his chance. Bredius received a purchase credit from the Rembrandt Society, and since then the work has been on display at the Mauritshuis, where it is still one of the highlights of the collection to this day.
Jan Steen, As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young, ca. 1665
This lively painting is not only a group portrait, but also features a self-portrait of Jan Steen. He is the man with the black hat teaching the little boy to smoke, a way for him to illustrate that children do not only copy the good, but also the bad examples from their parents. This work was undoubtedly meant as a warning to all parents. Since 1816, this painting was exhibited in The Hague, as part of the Steengracht collection. When this collection was about to be auctioned in 1913, two directors of the Rembrandt Society in the Hague raised the alarm and suggested to acquire the entire collection. The Society started a large-scale campaign to collect money, which enabled it to purchase part of the collection, including this painting by Jan Steen. This iconic painting thus remained in the Dutch collection, and the Mauritshuis gained a crowd puller.
Frans Hals, Laughing Boy, ca. 1625
In 1968, with the help of the Rembrandt Society in particular, the Mauritshuis purchased this small portrait of a laughing boy, painted by Frans Hals with quick strokes and incredible precision. The small painting had once been purchased by the twenty year old baroness Anne-Marie de Goldschmidt-Rothschild, who cherished it for fifty years and always kept it with her during her peregrinations around the world. Eventually, she sold it to the Mauritshuis for next to nothing, but only at the condition that she could have it on loan nine months of the year for the rest of her life. Between 1968 and 1973, the small painting travelled between Paris and The Hague every year. Since 1973, it has been on permanent display at the Mauritshuis.
Jan Davidsz de Heem, Vase with flowers, ca. 1670
Flower still lifes by De Heem are rare. The Mauritshuis was therefore extremely pleased when the Foundation Friends of the Mauritshuis, with the help of the Rembrandt Society, was able to obtain this colourful and very well preserved painting in 1993. Since then, this first-class specimen has been in the hands of the museum as a long-term loan.
Rembrandt, Portrait of an Old Man, 1667
Acquiring a late Rembrandt is a challenge, since virtually all masterpieces are already in the possession of museums. This painting from Rembrandt's late period is in very good state and shows great expressiveness. The old man seems almost stuck sitting in his chair, and his jacket can hardly be closed around his belly. The painter was able to express this with one stroke of the paintbrush. Being able to bid for this Rembrandt was a stroke of luck for the Mauritshuis. The provisional purchase contract was closed in 1999, before funds became available. But the contribution from the Rembrandt Society has convinced many other organisations and private establishments to participate in this purchase. This fulfilled one of the dreams of the Mauritshuis.
Paul Bril, Mountainous Landscape with Saint Jerome, 1592
As a young painter, Paul Bril left Antwerp for Rome and became the most influential landscape painter of his time. Bril painted this landscape on copper, a surface which is very well suited for fine details. On the left is Saint Jerome, praying and doing penance in solitude. The landscape is a fantasy landscape such as those painted by Flemish artists in the 16th century. In 2013, this painting was acquired by the Mauritshuis. Due to the rising prices on the art market, it is no surprise nowadays that the funds must be gathered from several parties. This applies in particular to this painting by Paul Bril, to which the Rembrandt Society has contributed as well.