The Mauritshuis reopened its doors on 27 June following a 22 million euro refurbishment. Located just behind the Binnenhof (home to the Dutch Parliament) in The Hague it houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, most of which are works from the Golden Age. Top pieces include the Girl with the Pearl Earring (Vermeer, 1665-1667) and The Anatomical Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (Rembrandt, 1631). How do you visit an art museum? Are you an audio guide fanatic who studiously stops by each marked painting acquiring a certain knowledge of art history? Or someone who uses a smartphone app to get interesting bits of info on the paintings you like and take the odd photo while you’re at it? Do you just wander around and take it as it comes or do you allow previous experiences to influence what you see? And what in fact do you see?
Me? I’m a wanderer. I like to be surprised and inspired by a collection of paintings and to acquire my own story as I meander through it. Even, if like the Mauritshuis, I have been there many times before. As the names suggests, the Mauritshuis is an old grand house (former residence of count John Maurice of Nassau). The art is displayed on two floors. I found my first gem downstairs on a wall facing the Binnenhof. Ruben’s Old Woman and Boy with Candle (1616-1617). The young lad’s animated and expectant face contrasts beautifully with the old woman’s steadfast assurance born of a lifetime’s experience. I wonder if the powers in the building behind could learn something from these two?
Up the sumptuous staircase a feast awaited me. The expansive hall at the top of the stairs is full of works vying for attention. But one near a doorway grabbed my eye: Shepherd with Flute (Jacob Adriaensz Backer, 1634). He returned my look without guile.