I planned my visit to The Shchukin Collection at the Fondation Luis Vuitton so that I could also visit the exhibition Masterpieces of the Leiden Collection at the Louvre. The Leiden Collection is the new name of the collection of 17th-century Dutch paintings and drawings assembled by Thomas Kaplan and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan. The collection, which is named after Rembrandt's birthplace, currently consists of more than 250 portraits, history paintings and genre scenes by five generations of Dutch Masters, including a Vermeer (Young Woman Seated at a Virginal) and 13 works by Rembrandt, as well as works by Jan Steen, Frans van Mieris, Carel Fabritius, Gerrit Dou. Since its inception in 2003 most works from the collection have been loaned, anonymously, to art institutions around the world. This is the first time that a selection of works is brought together in an exhibition.
The exhibition is small but exquisite and invites close viewing of the works on show. I was once again stunned by how Rembrandt could bring paint and chalk to life. Even his simple drawing of a young lion resting (ca. 1638-42) seems alive, even though it consists of some chalk strokes on brown laid paper. To really appreciate Rembrandt you would have to see his work next to that of painters of lesser talent (of which there are also plenty in the Louvre's immense collection). I must admit that on visits to the Rijksmuseum, the Mauritshuis and other Dutch museums I may have casually walked past works by Jan Lievens, Frans van Mieris and Gerrit Dou in favour of household names like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals. Seeing them here I realized that their best works are every bit as good. So maybe it's time I visit the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis again.
Masterpieces of the Leiden Collection. The Age of Rembrandt is on view through May 22, 2017 at the Louvre in Paris and will travel on to the National Museum in Beijing (June 16 – September 3), followed by the Long Museum in Shanghai (September 23 – February 11, 2018) and eventually to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
In the picture: Jan Lievens (1607-1674), Boy in a Cape and Turban (Portrait of Prince Rupert of the Palatinate) ca. 1631) © The Leiden Collection, New York