International masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum from Cranach to Velázquez, Rembrandt and Manet
From 8 March to 3 June 2018, the Dutch national museum, the Rijksmuseum, is presenting High Society. Over thirty-five life-size portraits of powerful princes, eccentric aristocrats and fabulously wealthy citizens by the great masters of art history, including Cranach, Veronese, Velázquez, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Sargent, Munch and Manet. The centrepiece will be Rembrandt’s spectacular wedding portraits, Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit which will be shown for the first time following their restoration. Never before has there been an exhibition dedicated to this most glamorous type of portrait: life-size, standing and full length. Loans have come from museums and private collections from all over the world including Paris, London, Florence, Vienna and Los Angeles.
The works vary from the early sixteenth to the start of the twentieth century. Masterpieces include the impressive portraits of Henry the Pious, Duke of Saxony, and Catharina, Countess of Mecklenburg by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1514), the married couple Iseppo da Porto and Livia da Porto Thiene with their children by Veronese (1555), Don Pedro de Barberana y Aparregui by Velázquez (ca. 1631-33), Portrait Jane Fleming by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1778/79), The Artist by Edouard Manet (1875) and of course Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt (1634).
Four centuries of fashion
Most of the people portrayed are very lavishly dressed, giving the exhibition an overview of four centuries of fashion: from the tightly cut trousers and doublet from 1514 to the haute couture of the late nineteenth century. Some of the subjects portrayed, however, are wearing fancy garments in an antique style. Another is wearing a kilt, yet another is not wearing trousers and one is almost completely naked. Remarkably, those portrayed often have dogs with them. One man is accompanied by a lion. One couple have their children with them. The backgrounds can be richly decorated interiors, often with columns and/or curtains, or a summer or winter landscape. One man is standing in front of an imaginary landscape with palm trees, while another is adopting a flamboyant pose in front of the Colosseum in Rome.
Rembrandt’s 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 France (Musée du Louvre) in 2016 from a private collection. The wedding couple is the only couple that Rembrandt ever painted life-size, standing and full length (1634). The paintings are on display in the exhibition for the first time since their restoration – completed at the beginning of 2018. The High Society exhibition is the overture to the Year of Rembrandt in 2019, during which the 350th anniversary of the death of the artist will be extensively celebrated.
At the same time as the High Society exhibition, Guilty Pleasures can be seen in the adjacent galleries. Whereas the glamorous portraits are displaying high society at its best, more than 80 prints and drawings from the Rijksmuseum collection permit a subtle glimpse into what was often going on behind closed doors: parties, drinking, gambling and secret visits to brothels and boudoirs.
Sponsors and patrons
The High Society exhibition is being made possible in part with the support of the Blockbusterfonds, ING and FedEx.
The restoration of Rembrandt’s Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit is being made possible by the Irma Theodora Fund/Rijksmuseum Fund, Philips and the Cevat Fund/Rijksmuseum Fund.
The Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt are Jointly purchase by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of France in 2016. Rijksmuseum Collection and Musée du Louvre Collection.
High Society by Jonathan Bikker (Rijksmuseum research curator)
Dutch and English edition
Available from March 2018 in the Rijksmuseum shop, from rijksmuseum.nl/shop and bookshops.