About the exhibition
Thirty enormous 17th century group portraits from the collections of the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum were brought together for the first time in the Hermitage Amsterdam. These "brothers and sisters" of the Night Watch are unique in the world and rarely seen due to their size. They show us regents, archers and merchants from all different classes, backgrounds and religions, standing shoulder to shoulder like brothers.
Together they illustrate the story of the collective citizenship
The paintings show regents, militiamen and merchants from a variety of social and religious backgrounds. What they all have in common is worldly success – some of them were among the most powerful and prosperous citizens of the 17th-century Netherlands. And they were all, at the very least, wealthy enough to be immortalised together with their fellow guild members and trustees by some of the best painters of their age. This exhibition draws from the collections of the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman’ and militia group portraits by the likes of Govert Flinck and Nicolaes Pickenoy are but a few examples of the masterpieces on display.
Together they illustrate the story of the collective citizenship that is so typical of the Netherlands. They serve as a reflection for us, because the relationship they had back then forms the basis for our modern-day standards and social interaction. Would you like to know why the Dutch attach so much importance to freedom and equality? The answer is hanging - in life-size form - on the walls of the Hermitage Amsterdam.
In the picture, out of the picture, added to the picture?
The large-scale group portraits are impressive examples of painting technique. They have been carefully composed to convey what the sitters wanted to show to the world. And what they didn’t want to show has been excluded. Moreover, there is no trace in these striking images of people without money or power. Who were these individuals? And what was their relationship to the men and women in the group portraits? Through various interventions by modern creators, we give them a face – and try to tell their story too. Surrounded by the huge group portraits in the grand hall.
The exhibition continues on the upper floor with a closer look at the urban society of the Dutch Republic and the background of the group portraits. How did these paintings come about? Through beautiful 17th-century works, visitors gain an insight into the society of the times and the people who made these group portraits possible. In addition, the exhibition looks at what remains untold about their heritage: the darker side of these images and the fate of the people who were left out of the picture.