1. Rembrandt and Velázquez are the two greatest 17th century masters in their respective countries
One came from the Protestant Netherlands, the other from Catholic Spain. The Rijksmuseum and the Museo Nacional del Prado are bringing these masters together for the first time.
2. The 17th century was a period of exceptional artistic vitality in both countries
Tensions between the Netherlands and Spain were running high in the 17th century due to the Eighty Years’ War, in which the Low Countries revolted against Spanish rule. Even so, the arts in both countries flourished, culminating in the rise of two of the greatest painters of all time: Rembrandt and Velázquez.
3. The two great artists never met
Though they lived at the same time, these two great artists never got to see each other’s work – not a single painting. It is likely that Rembrandt never even knew of Velázquez’s existence.
4. Nevertheless, their work sometimes shows striking similarities
Both artists employ the same subtle contrast between light and dark, while the palette of colours they used was almost identical. Above all, both men excelled in their exemplary use of technique, combined with an unfailing instinct for when to relinquish control. The portraits painted by both Rembrandt and Velázquez are incredibly lifelike; it’s as if the people portrayed might move at any moment. They appear to be poised on the fine line between stillness and the desire to break out of their frame.
5. Both artists were major innovators
Both Velázquez and Rembrandt broke with the artistic conventions of their age. They were innovators, not content to simply build on an Italian tradition which set the artistic standard in Europe at the time by looking to classical antiquity.
6. The exhibition also features Rembrandt and Velázquez’s contemporaries
The exhibition centres on the work of Rembrandt and Velázquez, but also features masterpieces by other great masters such as Murillo, Vermeer, Zurbarán, Hals and Ribera.
7. Many paintings are making their Dutch debut
A number of the works on view in the Rijkmuseum as part of this exhibition are extra special: Finis Gloriae Mundi by Juan de Valdés Leal (Hospital de la Caridad, Seville) and The Judgment of William the Good by Nicolaes van Galen (Hasselt Town Hall), for example, are works which have never or hardly ever been loaned to an exhibition before.
8. Dutch and Spanish works are exhibited in pairs
The works in the exhibition address themes such as faith, wealth, power and love. A total of over sixty paintings by Spanish and Dutch masters are being shown in pairs.
9. The exhibition features 42 loans from 7 countries
Most of the works on loan, 14 to be precise, come from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. The exhibition features 17 works from the Rijksmuseum’s own collection.
10. Two kings opened the exhibition
The exhibition is a unique collaboration between two of Europe’s foremost museums: the Rijksmuseum and the Museo Nacional del Prado. To underline this fact, it was opened by both the King of the Netherlands and the King of Spain.
Rembrandt-Velázquez. Dutch & Spanish Masters can be seen from 11 October 2019 to 19 January 2020 in the Philips Wing of the Rijksmuseum.