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The Royal Picture Gallery

The Mauritshuis in The Hague houses the Royal Picture Gallery, a collection of two hundred paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Its foundation was laid in 1774 by Prince Willem V, whose picture gallery was the first public art collection in the Netherlands. After King Willem I donated his father’s paintings to the Dutch state in 1816, the collection moved in 1822 to the Mauritshuis, an imposing 17th-century building in Dutch classicist style designed by Jacob van Campen & Pieter Post. After 1816, new additions to the gallery were either, initially generally by order of the King, purchased by the state, or, mainly during the 20th century, received as private donations from generous art collectors.

The Royal Picture Gallery at the Mauritshuis in The Hague
Pictures at the exhibition in the Mauritshuis

Today, the Mauritshuis boasts having ‘the best of Dutch painting from the Golden Age’, but that honour goes to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in my opinion. However, the gallery easily qualifies for second best, showing highlights such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson by Dr Nicolaes Tulp, The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, The Bull by Paulus Potter and View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds by Jacob van Ruisdael. Almost all paintings in its compact collection are of interest, which, together with the intimacy of its exhibition rooms, makes the Mauritshuis such an appealing museum.

Reader comments

My oldest daughter

What I like about The Garden of Eden by Peter Paul Rubens & Jan Brueghel the Elder is the great attention to detail paid by the latter in painting the flora & fauna in this picture.


Besides Girl with a Pearl Earring, two other paintings by Johannes Vermeer, which happen to be of my home town, are among my favourites: View of Delft, here at the Mauritshuis, and The Little Street (Vlamingstraat 40–42), on display at the Rijksmuseum.


George Sand a écrit: «Les chefs-d’œuvres ont des défauts.» La Leçon d’anatomie n’en a pas. Mais peut-être est-ce un défaut que de n’en point avoir. Comme peinture, c’est une œuvre accomplie en son genre. Senza errore.