Overnight, Boston Just Became a Unmissable Destination for Lovers of Dutch Golden-Age Art

The gift of 113 works nearly doubles the museum's holdings of Dutch Golden Age paintings.

Gerrit Dou Dog at Rest (1650). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has become—seemingly overnight—one of the country’s preeminent destinations for Dutch art from the Golden Age.

The museum announced yesterday that two Boston-area collector couples, Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, plan to donate a combined 113 works of Dutch and Flemish art by 76 artists. The gift will also include funds to establish a dedicated center for Netherlandish Art at the MFA, the first of its kind in the US, and an extensive research library.

The pledged works include arguably the finest and best-preserved Rembrandt portrait in private hands, Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), and other works by Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jan Brueghel the Elder. The collection constitutes the largest gift of European paintings in the MFA’s history and will nearly double its Dutch and Flemish holdings.

The donation will completely transform the museum’s collection, the MFA’s senior curator for painting Ronni Baer told artnet News. “The gift has an enormous impact on us,” she explained. “There are 48 artists, a huge number that are not represented in our collection already. It both broadens our collection and deepens it, in some cases.”

Particular highlights for Baer include Gerrit Dou’s Dog at Rest (1650), which has been on loan to MFA and has become one of its most popular paintings, and Willem Kalf’s Still Life With a Peeled Lemon (1664), a rare well-preserved example that illustrates why the painter is sometimes called “the Vermeer of still life.”

Rembrandt van Rijn Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632) Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

To give visitors a taste of the significant donation, the museum is currently presenting an exhibition of 42 of the pledged works interspersed with paintings from its existing holdings (on view through January 18). The couples will continue to add to their collections over time, now taking into account exactly how their purchases gel with the MFA’s broader collection.

The MFA beat out a number of institutions in the Boston area and beyond for the coveted gift. Ultimately, Eijk van Otterloo told the Boston Globe, it came down to the MFA and the Yale University Art Gallery. The couples ultimately decided that they wanted to have their collection seen by the broadest possible audience, rather than a specialized academic one.

To that end, the deal also includes a provision that 85 percent of the collection must be on view at any given time, either at the MFA Boston or other institutions.

The van Otterloo and Weatherbie donation will also serve as the foundation for the new Center of Netherlandish Art, an academic study center and research library scheduled to open in 2020. The van Otterloos have donated their extensive archive of more than 20,000 monographs, catalogs, and rare books.

“One of the reasons why these two couples want to give their paintings to the MFA was the understanding that we would establish a center for the center of Netherlandish art because there’s no such place in America at all,” Baer said. “The intent is to train the next generation of scholars of Dutch art.”

An exact date for the full integration of the gift into the MFA’s collection has not been set. In the meantime, view highlights of the landmark gift below.

Willem Kalf Still Life with a Peeled Lemon (1664). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Peter Paul Rubens Coronation of the Virgin (ca. 1623). Photo: Susan and Matthew Weatherbie Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Willem van de Velde the Younger A Dutch Flagship Coming to Anchor (ca. 1672).
Photo: Susan and Matthew Weatherbie Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Gerrit van Honthorst A Merry Group behind a Balustrade with a Violin and a Lute Player (ca. 1623). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Aelbert Cuyp Orpheus Charming the Animals (ca. 1640). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde View of Haarlem (ca. 1671). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Pieter Jansz Saenredam North Transept and Choir Chapel of the Sint Janskerk, Utrecht (1655). Photo: Susan and Matthew Weatherbie Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Salomon de Bray Study of a Young Woman in Profile (1636). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Osias Beert Still Life with Various Vessels on a Table (ca. 1610). Photo: Susan and Matthew Weatherbie Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder Still Life with Roses in a Glass Vase (ca. 1619). Photo: Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


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