The history of Amerongen Castle dates back to the year 1286. Like any proper castle, it was destroyed & rebuilt several times during the centuries that followed; the current castle was built between 1674 and 1684, after its precursor was burned down by French troops in 1673. King Louis XIV had invaded the Dutch Republic the year before, and to finance the war effort, his intendant in Utrecht demanded loadsamoney from the occupied territories’ propertied residents, under threat of burning down their estates. Amerongen Castle’s lord & master Godard Adriaan van Reede, who was the Dutch ambassador to Brandenburg-Prussia at the time, didn’t give in, and it was left mainly to his wife Margaretha Turnor, who did not join her husband abroad, to oversee the construction of a new mansion in Dutch classicist style after Louis withdrew his troops from the Republic.
The entrance to the castle is reached by a double-decked bridge across the moat — the upper level, which leads to the main hall, was meant for the family & their guests, while the lower level, leading to the basement, was for the servants, and today, is for visitors. The drawing room on the main floor, which commands a fine prospect of the wetlands along the Nederrijn river, features two marble mantelpieces from Dresden with equestrian portraits of Friedrich Wilhelm & his consort Dorothea, a gift from the Great Elector of Brandenburg himself, who also donated a hundred oak trees for the reconstruction of the castle. Other rooms that are of special interest are the dining room & the gobelin room on the bel étage, both refurbished around 1900 by architect Pierre Cuypers, who also built the Rijksmuseum & De Haar Castle. The imposing picture gallery on the upper floor, reminiscent of the one at the Mauritshuis, gives access to the private rooms, including those where the German Emperor Wilhelm II initially stayed after he fled the world stage in 1918.
Famous primarily for his elegantly stylized nudes & his elongated portraits, Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) counts among the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. He received traditional academic art training in Italy, but after moving to Paris in 1906, at the age of 21, his eyes were opened to new ways of working. In 1909, Modigliani briefly turned his attention to sculpture, creating a body of work that would influence his wider practice. When he returned entirely to painting in 1915 his experience as a sculptor of abstracted, elongated heads was echoed in his subsequent figure & portrait paintings. In 1917 he began a series of some three dozen female nudes that, with their warm colours & sensuous, rounded forms, are among his best works. Modigliani died at the age of 35, deeply impoverished. Some 96 years later, his painting Nu couché sold for a whopping $170 million.
The exhibition Modigliani — Modern Gazes, on display at the State Gallery in Stuttgart until 17 March 2024, and at Museum Barberini in Potsdam from 27 April to 18 August 2024, presents an overview of Modigliani’s oeuvre, showing some fifty of his works, together with around thirty more paintings, drawings, prints & sculptures by contemporary artists of classical modernism, including Gustav Klimt, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wilhelm Lehmbruck and Egon Schiele. Modigliani’s paintings were long interpreted in the tradition of scandal, as expressions of a male artist’s lustful view. The exhibition argues that rather than a male gaze, Modigliani, now seen as the chronicler of a growing female self-confidence in the years before & during the First World War, had a modern gaze, and that his work must be reassessed in this context. But of course the gaze is in the eye of the beholder, and visitors to the exhibition are free to exercise any form of gazing that they desire.