The Leiden Collection, named in honour of the Dutch city where Rembrandt was born, was founded in 2003 by Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, and comprises some 250 paintings and works of graphic art. The Collection made its public debut at The Louvre Museum in early 2017, an opening that was followed by highly successful exhibitions at The National Museum of China in Beijing and The Long Museum in Shanghai. 2018 marks the welcoming of The Leiden Collection to Russia – at The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and The State Hermitage Museum.
Passionate admirers of the work of Rembrandt and his contemporaries, the Kaplans have succeeded in our own day to accomplish a seemingly unrealizable goal: to assemble from scratch a representative and thematically diverse collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and numerous small-scale works by painters of the Leiden School known as fijnschilders – “fine-manner painters.” Their achievement comes at a time when works by such artistic geniuses have long since been collected among leading museums and private collections with deep, often centuries-old roots.
The exhibition contains 82 works from The Leiden Collection by outstanding Dutch painters, including 12 paintings by Rembrandt (from both his early, Leiden years and his later mature Amsterdam period), works by Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer, and also pieces by Rembrandt’s pupils (including Gerrit Dou, Ferdinand Bol and Govaert Flinck). Visitors will also enjoy Carel Fabritius’ unique Hagar and the Angel, one of just 16 works by Rembrandt’s most revered student to have survived to the present day, and the only one in private hands. The show also features two magnificent drawings: Young Lion Resting by Rembrandt and Head of a Bear by Leonardo da Vinci.
The exhibition at the Hermitage differs from previous displays in that it will include 8 of the museum’s own masterpieces from the fijnschilder school, which will enter into a dialogue with the works from The Leiden Collection. Some paintings depict different versions of the same subject, such as Jacobus Vrel’s representation of an old woman by a fireplace or Gerrit Dou’s Herring Seller. Others form pairs. For example, the Hermitage’s painting Broken Egg by Frans van Mieris the Elder was most likely a companion piece to the same artist’s Traveler at Rest in The Leiden Collection. This hypothesis is borne out by the dimensions of the works and the mirroring in the compositions. Other paintings also illuminate points of contact. For instance, one of Gerrit Dou’s earliest paintings – the Hermitage’s An Old Man Looking at the Globe (also known variously as The Geographer, The Astronomer and Heraclitus) – depicts an elderly man. This aged model, conventionally referred to in the literature as “Rembrandt’s father”, appears repeatedly in the works of both Dou himself and other painters. Evidently the same model – an old man in loose-fitting clothing and a small skullcap – is shown in the oval composition by Dou, Scholar Sharpening His Quill, which belongs to The Leiden Collection.
The exhibition provides visitors with a unique opportunity to acquaint themselves with 17th-century Dutch art as well as with the way in which it is perceived by the Kaplans, whose vision has made it possible to put together a selection of such high standards and amazing integrity. The juxtaposition between The Leiden Collection and the Hermitage’s Dutch Golden Age paintings makes it possible to reflect on how tradition and innovation interact, and how dialogues between artists can take different forms.
Exhibition-goers will be able to view masterpieces from Rembrandt’s early, Leiden period belonging to a series of allegories of the senses: Stone Operation (Allegory of Touch), Three Musicians (Allegory of Hearing), and the recently discovered Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell), the Master’s earliest signed painting. The mature period in Rembrandt’s career, associated with his long and fruitful work in Amsterdam, is represented by Portrait of a Man in a Red Coat, Young Girl in a Gold-Trimmed Cloak, and Self-Portrait with Shaded Eyes. Visitors will also get to enjoy the celebrated Minerva in Her Study, one of the most important works of art from this period. This outstanding picture was the culmination of a series of similar history paintings that Rembrandt produced in the mid-1630s, which depict heroic women of the ancient past. Flora in the Hermitage also belongs to that cycle of monumental mythological female images.
The exhibition also features Young Woman Seated at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer of Delft, whose works are extremely rare. Just 36 paintings by the artist are known worldwide, and visitors will have a unique opportunity to see one of them. This is especially significant as this master’s œuvre is not represented in the collections of Russian museums. Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is believed to have been painted on canvas cut from the same bolt of cloth as another of Vermeer’s compositions, The Lacemaker, which is part of the permanent collection of The Louvre.
The Haarlem painter Frans Hals is known above all as a master of original portraits that capture, in an expressive, unconstrained manner, the various strata of society, including merchants, clergymen and soldiers. The exhibition will include his jewel-like Portrait of Samuel Ampzing and the larger Portrait of Conradus Vietor.
A special section of the exhibition is made up of paintings by the Leiden school of fijnschilders. These small paintings, executed on wood or copper, stand out for their virtuoso technique and pure colours. Among the most expensive works of art of their time, they have always been the object of keen interest among collectors. The works on display represent the broad spectrum of genres within 17th-century Dutch painting. In addition to history paintings, portraits and genre scenes, they also include enchanting compositions featuring animals. The exceptional preservation of these masterpieces makes it possible to admire the technical perfection or virtuoso painterly skill that the Dutch masters could command. The exhibition presents works by Gerrit Dou, Frans van Mieris the Elder, Gerard ter Borch and Gabriel Metsu.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with forewords by Marina Loshak, Director of The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, and Prof. Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of The State Hermitage Museum. The catalogue features essays by Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, Dr. Lara Yeager-Crasselt, Dr. Vadim Sadkov and Dr. Irina Sokolova.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Irina Sokolova, Chief Curator in The State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Fine Art, Keeper of Dutch Painting, and Dr. Lara Yeager-Crasselt, Curator of The Leiden Collection in New York.