Today, Thursday, the Mauritshuis Museum opens a new exhibition. For about three months, visitors can watch a restoration of a painting in progress. The work is by Rogier van der Weyden; the museum’s oldest painting.
Rogier van der Weyden is now considered one of the most influential painters of 15th century Northern Europe. Yet the Mauritshuis is the only Dutch museum, having a van der Weyden in its collection.
Van der Weyden created this work between 1460-1464. It is a “Lamentation of Christ”, showing the body in front of a cross and surrounded by mourners. Among these the bishop who ordered this painting.
The centuries-old-work suffered some damage. The most important reason to start this restoration is however, its varnish. Over time, this slowly turned yellow. A yellow top layer, distorts a painting’s original colours.
Visitors can watch two Mauritshuis experts work on the painting in a real studio. I-pads around this work-space enable visitors to learn about the ongoing work. When this work-space is empty, a short film explains visitors more about restoration work. Moreover, visitors can ask experts questions each afternoon.
To help the Mauritshuis with its research into its “Lamentation”, the Italian Uffizi Galleri kindly loaned its “Entombment of Christ”, also painted by van der Weyden. It is this painting visitors see first, on entering the Mauritshuis’ exhibition wing.
Though also created by van der Weyden in his Brussels workshop, this is the first time the two paintings are united again. The Uffizi painting was created during the same period in van der Weyden’s career. By then, this Flemish painter was already famous throughout Europe.
Lorenzo de Medici ordered the artist to paint the Uffizi “Entombment of Christ”, according to specific instructions. It differs slightly from other works by van der Weyden; showing some details common in Italian art.
This and more is explained in the small exhibition space, where information on both works is displayed on the walls. Here, visitors also find a large touch-screen. It allows them to look at the Mauritshuis’ “Lamentation” in great detail, using its zoom-function.
The large touch-screen also allows visitors to ‘look through paint’, using touch buttons to reveal details. Using special touch-buttons, the painting and details are revealed in ordinary, X-ray and Infra-red light. Thus, visitors detect how van der Weyden drew a first composition, then changed his mind and altered things, before starting work on the painting as it is now.
The first three months of the restoration process take place with visitors being able to watch experts at work. After 9th of September, one painting returns to Florence, while restoration of the other one continues “off stage”. The restored masterpiece will be revealed in the Mauritshuis around Christmas.
This complete project was funded not by large corporations! Donations from ordinary people enabled it and include a bequest by Mr. and Mrs. Schoufour-Martin.
Kate, writing for The Hague Online
Photo courtesy Mauritshuis
Museum Mauritshuis: “van der Weyden unveiled” opens Thursday 14th of June and runs till 9th of September 2018