Simon Schama at the new Rijksmuseum

March 30 2013

Image of Simon Schama at the new Rijksmuseum

Picture: Wikipedia

Simon Schama has an interesting essay in the FT on the soon to open Rijksmuseum (shut for ten years!), which henceforth is to be known as 'The Museum of the Netherlands'. He tells us that the museum is to have a new display ethos, with galleries including numerous objects from a related period, from paintings to cutlery, rather like the V&A:

What has been done with the museum is less a restoration with some fancy contemporary design than the inauguration of a curatorial revolution. When you see those early Rembrandts or the great mannerist “Massacre of the Innocents” of Cornelis van Haarlem with its ballet of twisting rumps, you will also encounter, as would those who would first have seen them, the silver, weapons and cabinets that were the furniture of the culture that made those pictures possible. You will enter the historical world of the Netherlands at a particular moment. And, because the objects are housed in frameless, edgeless displays in which the glass is of a stunning invisibility, nothing in one’s field of vision separates images from artefacts.

The new displays mean that:

History and art have their natural companionship restored, for – although historians condescendingly suppose images to be “soft” evidence of the past, and art historians suspect historians of obtuse philistinism – the truth is, as Huizinga knew, they need each other to reconstruct the reality of lost worlds. History without the eloquence of images is blind; art without the testimony of texts is deaf.

Too true.

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