Mauritshuis Art Museum
Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland. History, Collection Highlights.

Mauritshuis Art Museum, The Hague


History of the Mauritshuis
History of the Art Collection

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring
(Head of a Girl with a Turban)
By Jan Vermeer. One of the
greatest portrait paintings
of the Dutch Golden Age.

Mauritshuis, Royal Picture Gallery is amongst Europe's best art museums.


One of the best art museums in Europe, the Mauritshuis (or Royal Picture Gallery) was - until privatized in 1995 - the Netherlands State picture gallery, located in The Hague. Still housed in the former home of Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), from whom it derives its name, the Mauritshuis was bought by the Dutch government in 1820 and opened as a public art museum two years later. The original collection (the Royal Cabinet of Paintings) had been assembled by William V, Prince of Orange, and donated to the state by his son king William I. Today, the collection consists of 800 paintings and is devoted mainly to Netherlandish Renaissance painters (1430-1580) and 17th-century Dutch Realist artists. Other masters represented, include Peter Paul Rubens, Hans Holbein the Younger and many others. The Mauritshuis receives roughly 250,000 visitors a year. The Netherlands is home to several other outstanding art museums, including the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam; and the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo.

Reina Sofia, Madrid
Prado Museum Madrid
Uffizi Gallery Florence
Pitti Palace, Florence
Capodimonte Museum, Naples
Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel Frescoes
Raphael Rooms (Vatican)
National Gallery London
British Museum
Tate Gallery
Courtauld Gallery
British Royal Art Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Antwerp Museum of Fine Arts
Louvre Museum
Musee Conde, Chantilly
Musee d'Orsay
Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts

Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden
Gemaldegalerie SMPK, Berlin
Pinakothek Museum Munich
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Kunstmuseum Basel
Hermitage St Petersburg
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
Tretyakov Gallery Moscow

See our guide to the art of
Painting (oils/watercolours), or
Sculpture (marble/bronze), or
Printmaking (etching/lithography).

Before visiting the Mauritshuis
Royal Picture Gallery, see:
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

History of the Mauritshuis Building

The building, one of the earliest examples of Dutch classicism - a combination of classical Greek and Roman architecture - was designed and built by the architect Jacob van Campen for Johan Maurits during the latter's term as Governor of a Dutch colony in Brazil, from 1636 to 1644. The classical palace was built in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in The Hague, close to the Binnenhof – the centre of government.

Following the death of Johan Maurits in 1679, the building was acquired by the Maes family, who had been his banker. Not long afterwards they leased the palace to the Dutch state, and it was during this lease in 1704, that a catastrophic fire broke out and destroyed the entire 17th-century interior. With the help of public lottery funds the building was completely restored during the 18th-century, before being purchased outright by the state in 1820 and converted into a public gallery to display the Dutch Royal collection of art.

History of the Art Collection

The oldest section of the Mauritshuis collection consists of paintings previously acquired by Willem V, Prince of Orange-Nassau (1748-1806), either through inheritance or purchase. Such early works include The Bull (1647) by Paulus Potter, The Young Mother by Gerritt Dou, Portrait of Robert Cheseman by Hans Holbein the Younger and others. When the French army invaded the Low Countries in 1795, Willem V fled to England. His art collection was confiscated by Napoleon and taken to Paris. It was returned to The Hague in 1815, and gifted to the state by King William I (1772-1843). Known since then as the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, the collection was first displayed at the Prince Willem V Gallery on the Buitenhof, before being transferred to the Mauritshuis in 1822.

For almost a decade (1822-30) the collection was expanded by King Willem I, but thereafter it was allowed to stagnate until the late 1870s onwards, when new works were acquired and a new policy of acquisitions put in place, thanks largely to public funds or private donations. Important benefactors of the Mauritshuis have included: the Hague collector Arnoldus Andries des Tombe (1818-1902), the museum's director Abraham Bredius (1855-1946), Sir Henri Deterding (1866-1939), Mrs Louise Thurkow-van Huffel (1900-1987) and Willem Baron van Dedem (b.1929).

Highlights of the Permanent Collection

The collection consists of almost 800 paintings, 50 miniatures, 20 sculptures, as well as a significant number of drawings and prints. The core and continuing focus of the collection is Dutch and Flemish painting. It includes some of the greatest genre paintings by artists of the Dutch Realism school, such as Judith Leyster (1609-60), David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), Gerritt Dou (1613-75), Gerard Terborch (1617-81), Carel Fabritius (1622-54), Jan Steen (1626-79), and Jan Vermeer (1632-75). The best portrait artists, including Frans Hals (1581-1666) and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69) are also included in the collection, along with the best still life painters like Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-83), Willem Kalf (1619-93) and animaliers like Paulus Potter (1625-54). Flemish masters of religious art like Hans Memling (1430-94), and Roger Van der Weyden (1399-1464) are also represented, as is Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Highlights of the Mauritshuis art collection include:

Roger Van der Weyden
The Lamentation of Christ (c.1460-1480)

Hans Holbein the Younger
Portrait of a Woman (1517)
Portrait of Robert Cheseman (1533)

Frans Hals
Laughing Boy (c.1625)

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1631)
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632)

Jan Davidsz de Heem
Still Life with Books (1628)

• Judith Leyster (1609-60)
The Rejected Offer (1631)

David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690)
Kitchen Scene (1644)

Gerard Terborch (1617-81)
Motherly Care (c.1654)
Woman Writing a Letter (1655)

Jan Steen (1626-79)
The Drunken Woman (1670)

Jan Vermeer
View of Delft (1660-1)
Girl with a Pearl Earring (Head of a Girl with a Turban) (c.1665)


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