High Society

March 8 2018 to June 3 2018

The Rijksmuseum presents ‘High Society’: four centuries of glamour by the great masters of the history of art, including Cranach, Veronese, Velázquez, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Sargent, Munch and Manet.

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Top international art in the Rijksmuseum, from Cranach to Velázquez and from Rembrandt to Manet

The highlight of the exhibition will be Rembrandt’s pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit. These spectacular portraits were painted to commemorate the couple’s marriage. This will be the first time since their restoration that they will be on view to the public. The exhibition features over 35 paintings from international museums and private collections in Paris, London, Florence, Vienna and Los Angeles.


luisa Giovanni Boldini, Marchesa Luisa Casati with a Greyhound, 1908. Private collectionOver the centuries, many powerful monarchs, eccentric aristocrats and fabulously wealthy burghers have commissioned portraits of themselves, arrayed in all their finery, from the best painters in the world. Preferably standing, life-size and full-length. The young Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit are the only couple that Rembrandt ever painted life-size, standing and full-length (1634). This prestigious format was primarily reserved for monarchs and members of the aristocracy. It was not until some time later that it was used for high society in general.
In the exhibition, Rembrandt’s Marten and Oopjen are in very exclusive company. The others include mighty rulers, such as Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, ruler of the largest domain since the Roman Empire. There are also eccentric aristocrats like the Marchesa Luisa Casati, a femme fatale who was widely known for her extravagant parties. Or Jane Fleming, who, at that time, was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in England. Prominent burghers, such as the German politician Walther Rathenau (by Edvard Munch) and Dr Pozzi, a dandy, gynaecologist and notorious womanizer (by John Singer Sargent), also feature among the guests of honour in High Society.

Four centuries of glamour

Most of the subjects are very elegantly or extravagantly dressed, so the exhibition presents a snapshot of four centuries of international fashion: from the slashed breeches and doublet of 1514 to the haute couture of the late nineteenth century.

Guilty Pleasures

While the glamorous portraits present high society at its very best, there are more than 80 prints and drawings depicting – in explicit detail – events that often took place behind closed doors, such as parties, drinking, gambling and surreptitious visits to brothels and boudoirs. These drawings and prints are from the Rijksmuseum’s own collection.

The finest international works

Rarely have so many paintings by world-famous artists been displayed at a Rijksmuseum exhibition. The paintings range from the early sixteenth century to the early twentieth century. The finest works include impressive portraits by Cranach the Elder, Veronese, Velázquez, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Sargent, Manet, Munch and, of course, Rembrandt van Rijn.

meno Portret van Marten Soolmans / Portret van Oopjen Coppit, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, 1634

Rembrandt’s portraits of Marten and Oopjen

High Society celebrates the acquisition of Rembrandt’s spectacular wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by the Netherlands (Rijksmuseum) and by France (Musée du Louvre) in 2016, from a private collection. Following the completion of restoration work in early 2018, this is the first time the public will see these paintings in their full glory. The High Society exhibition is the prelude to the Year of Rembrandt in 2019, when the 350th anniversary of this great artist’s death will be extensively commemorated.

Audio tour with Cecile Narinx and Jort Kelder

The audio tour features commentaries by fashion expert Cecile Narinx and society watcher Jort Kelder about the often extravagant elements of fashion and the ins-and-outs of High Society down through the ages.

You can download it to your own smartphone, free of charge, or rent an audio guide at the exhibition.
veronese Paolo Veronese, Count Iseppo da Porto / Countess Livia da Porto Thiene, c. 1552. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum and Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Contini Bonacossi Collection

Sponsors and benefactors

The exhibition High Society is made possible by the Blockbusterfonds, ING, FedEx and the Patrons of the Rijksmuseum.

The conservation treatment of Rembrandt’s portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit is made possible by the Irma Theodora Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds, Philips and the Cevat Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds.

The portraits were acquired through a joint purchase by the State of the Netherlands and the Republic of France.


High Society by Jonathan Bikker (Curator of Research at the Rijksmuseum)
Dutch and English edition. Available at the Rijksmuseum Shop from March 2018 and at the Bookshop. Price €25.

An edition of the journal Kunstschrift entitled Ten Voeten Uit (Full Length) will be published to accompany the exhibition. This will be on sale in the Rijksmuseum or in the Bookshop while the exhibition is running. Price €11.

Ticket sales

Tickets can be booked in the advance sales online. While the exhibition is running, tickets can also be purchased at the ticket counter. There is no surcharge.