Remember Me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Monday, October 11, 2021
Remember Me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This autumn the Remember Me exhibition at the Rijksmuseum presents more than 100 masterpieces by artists such as Memling, Dürer, Holbein, Titian and Veronese. Remember Me is about ambition, desire and loss, and about people who wanted to be remembered.

Never before have so many European Renaissance portraits been brought together in the Netherlands – portraits of powerful emperors, flamboyant aristocrats and well-to-do citizens. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, increasing numbers of people commissioned portraits of themselves. This autumn the Remember Me exhibition at the Rijksmuseum presents more than 100 masterpieces by artists such as Memling, Dürer, Holbein, Titian and Veronese. Remember Me is about ambition, desire and loss, and about people who wanted to be remembered.

Remember Me is the first major exhibition of international Renaissance portraits in the Netherlands. One of the highlights is Portrait of a Young Girl (c. 1470) by Petrus Christus, from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. Other portraits have been loaned by museums such as the Kunstmuseum in Basel, the National Gallery in London, Museo del Prado in Madrid and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Remember Me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba runs from 1 October to 16 January 2022 in the Phillips Wing of the Rijksmuseum.

 

Remember Me

Since antiquity, the most important function of the portrait has been the preservation of the memory of their sitter. With the first great blossoming of portraiture in Europe during the renaissance, artists and their patrons, whether north or south of the Alps, drew on this notion. No matter how great the regional differences, the common denominator is plainly the human need to remember.

Like us, the sitters were keen to present themselves in the most favourable light possible. All aspects of the composition – the facial expression, symbolism, pose, background and clothing – are the result of meticulous planning. Where one might focus on physical beauty, another would prioritise a sense of authority. Charles V, for example, foregrounded his power in a bronze sculpture made around 1553 in which he is portrayed as a Roman Emperor, and in 1555 Maarten van Heemskerck confidently placed his own skills on display in a self-portrait. Remember Me sheds light on how the sitters of these paintings chose to present themselves, drawing on themes such as beauty, authority, ambition, love, family, knowledge and faith.

Petrus Christus, Portret van een jonge vrouw, ca. 1470. Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin

International Masterpieces

This exhibition brings together loaned artworks from throughout Europe and the United States. The Northern Renaissance masterpiece Portrait of a Young Girl (c. 1470) by Petrus Christus is a highlight of the Gemäldegalerie collection, and this exhibition marks the first occasion the painting has left that museum since 1994. Turin’s Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Madama, has loaned Antonello da Messina's 1476 painting Portrait of a Man for the exhibition. The Gisant for the Tomb of Isabella of Bourbon (made by Jan Borman the Younger and Renier van Thienen in 1475-76) from Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady will be reunited with the Rijksmuseum’s ten pleurants, or ‘weepers’ (on loan from the City of Amsterdam). Albrecht Dürer’s 1497 Portrait of a Young Woman with Her Hair Down has been loaned for Remember Me by the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and the several works in the exhibition from Basel’s Kunstmuseum include the 1516 Double Portrait of Jakob Meyer zum Hasen and Dorothea Kannengiesser by Hans Holbein the Younger. The National Gallery of Art in Washington provided the portrait of Jan Jacobsz Snoeck painted by Jan Gossart around 1530 and Muzeum-Zamek w Łańcucie in Łańcut loaned the Rijksmuseum a self-portrait made by the Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola in approximately 1556.

 

The Earliest Individual Portraits of African Men in the History of European Art

The two earliest individual portraits of African men in the history of European art are to appear together for the first time in the Rijksmuseum’s Remember Me exhibition.
One of the highlights, Albrecht Dürer’s unrivalled masterpiece, 1508 Portrait of an African Man from the Albertina Collection in Vienna, is the earliest known individual portrait drawing of an African person in West European art. We do not know the identity of the sitter. The drawing was probably created for Dürer’s own interest and his own workshop collection. It was still in his workshop at his death in 1528.
Thirteen years later, around 1525, Jan Jansz Mostaert from Haarlem made the earliest known painted portrait of an individual African man in late medieval and Renaissance Europe. From the man’s attire, sword and gloves we can fairly safely assume he was a soldier. The pilgrim’s insignia on his cap identifies him as a Christian who had completed the pilgrimage to Halle, near Brussels. The sitter was possibly Christophle le More, a personal bodyguard to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

 

Restoration of Earliest-Known Dutch Citizen Militia Portrait

Having undergone a complete transformation through restoration treatment, the earliest known Dutch militia portrait, or schuttersstuk, is now on show in the Remember Me exhibition. In the run-up to the exhibition the large panel painting has been thoroughly restored. The starting point for the more than 18 months of restoration treatment was an examination of the work’s condition and painting technique. This led to the discovery that as well as being covered in several layers of now-yellowed varnish, it was partially covered by non-original overpaint. The layers of varnish and overpaint have been removed, revealing an original cloudscape, as well as previously hidden details of faces and clothing of the arquebusiers. Additionally, it became clear that the man depicted at the upper right of the painting is holding an artist’s brush, rather than a pen. The presence of the brush suggests this may be self-portrait of the painter Dirck Jacobsz.

Jan Jansz Mostaert, Portrait of an African Man (Christophle le More?), ca. 1525 - ca. 1530. Rijksmuseum

Curators

The curators of the Remember Me exhibition are Matthias Ubl, Sara van Dijk and Friso Lammertse. Matthias Ubl is curator of Early Netherlandish, Italian and German painting at the Rijksmuseum. In 2018 he won the Karel van Mander Prize, the Netherlands’ most important award for art history, for his book Der Braunschweiger Monogrammist: Wegbereiter der niederländischen Genremalerei vor Bruegel. Sara van Dijk is junior curator of Textile at the Rijksmuseum. She was previously a lecturer in Applied Arts at Leiden University, where she gained her PhD with her thesis Beauty Adorns Virtue: Dress in Portraits of Women by Leonardo da Vinci. Friso Lammertse joined the Rijksmuseum as its curator of 17th-Century Art in 2020 from Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, where he was curator of Old Master Paintings and Sculpture and responsible for many major exhibitions.

 

Design

The designer of the exhibition is the French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. Irma Boom is the graphic designer for the exhibition.

 

Sponsors and Benefactors

The exhibition is made possible in part by Ammodo, the Rijksmuseum International Circle, the Maria Adriana Aalders Fund/Rijksmuseum Fund and the Dutch government: an indemnity grant has been provided by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

 

Catalogue

A richly illustrated catalogue designed by Irma Boom has been released to accompany the exhibition, in Dutch and English editions. Available from 1 October.

Authors: Sara van Dijk, Matthias Ubl, Friso Lammertse, Ilona van Tuinen,
ISBN 978-90-9032-650-0
Paperback, 23 x 29 cm, 264 pages
Made in partnership with nai010

 

 

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