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Explore Selfies from the Golden Age: Dutch Self-Portraits

8 October, 2015


From October 8 October 2015 through 3 January 2016, The Mauritshuis in The Hague exhibits the best of Dutch paintings from the Golden Age. But how did the artists themselves actually look? Visitors will come face-to-face with legendary painters such as Jan Steen, Rembrandt, Carel Fabritius and Gerrit Dou. An intriguing encounter with the masters of self-portrait from the Golden Age.

Many seventeenth-century Dutch painters have made self-portraits, more than in any other country. Some painters such as Rembrandt were true experts, whereas others only left one known self-portrait. The exhibition offers a brief overview of the genre. Using twenty-seven paintings (mostly on loan), the various types of self-portraits are explained: portraits such as ‘upper-middle class gentleman’, self-portraits with others (for example family members), self-portraits with a still life, self-portraits in a role (such as hunter) and self-portraits with trade attributes (palette, brushes, easel). This latter category is especially well represented in Dutch art.

In a self-portrait, an artist presents himself; he (or she) shows what he finds important and how to present his profession, status or position in the world. With the inquiring gaze through which the artist looked into the mirror, it seems as if he is looking at us. The artist not only shows how he or she looks, but also what his talent is as a painter.

Thanks to the selfie phenomenon, the concept of self-portrait is currently a popular topic. Selfies are very easy to make, at any location and moment of the day, dozens of times in succession if desired. In the seventeenth century, this of course was unimaginable. The only technique in that time to make anything like a selfie was through drawing or painting. This required a long training period and great technical skills, which is why making self-portraits was still the exclusive domain of artists in that time. The exhibition Dutch Self-Portraits – Selfies from the Golden Age explains the choices they have made in terms of facial expression, posture, clothing, hairstyle, attributes and background. The differences between then and now are significant. But one thing remained unchanged: the fact that the creators of a self-portrait must choose how they want to present themselves.

Dutch Self-Portraits – Selfies from the Golden Age can be seen from 8 October 2015 through 3 January 2016 in the exhibition room of the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Along with the exhibition, a richly illustrated catalogue will be published in Dutch and English by Waanders Publishers.

Arie de Vois (Utrecht c.1632 – 1680 Leiden) Self-Portrait as a Hunter, c.1660-1665 Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gerrit Dou (Leiden 1613-1675 Leiden) Self-Portrait, c.1665 Collection Eijk and Rose-Marie de Mol van Otterloo
Rembrandt Self-Portrait, 1669 Mauritshuis, The Hague
Jan Steen (Leiden 1626-1679 Leiden) Self-Portrait Playing the Lute, c.1663/65 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Inv. Nr. 955 Huygh Pietersz Voskuyl Self-Portrait, ca. 1638, Mauritshuis The Hague



8 October, 2015
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Plein 29
Den Haag, 2511 Netherlands
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