Jewel of a Museum

June 22, 2016

For a country that is roughly twice the size of New Jersey, The Netherlands is incredibly rich in art, and one of the most unforgettable collections resides in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem.

For a country that is roughly twice the size of New Jersey, The Netherlands is incredibly rich in art, and one of the most unforgettable collections resides in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. This museum is a gem, and remarkably, it is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.

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Teylers is a 232-year-old institution with a remarkable collection of paintings by Dutch masters and prints and drawings by Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Raphael as well as fossils, minerals, historical books and coins. Think of it as a combination of the Chicago Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum on a much smaller scale. When it was first established in 1778, Teylers was a gathering spot for some of the best thinkers of the day – philosophers, botanists, artists, engineers and historians. It is named for Pieter Teyler van der Hulst, a wealthy cloth merchant and banker who donated his fortune to advancing religion, art and science. If he came back for a visit I think Teylers would feel he earned a good return on his investment!

 

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

 

The building alone is worth a visit, particularly the historic center of the museum, the magnificent, neoclassical Oval Room. It is the only authentic 18th-century museum interior in the world. The painting of the Oval Room above was done by the museum's art curator Wybrand Hendriks in 1800, showing the electriseermachine of Martin van Marum. Below, I took the photo of the ceiling during my recent visit. I was so impressed by the intricate finishing details in this space.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

 

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Just as amazing is the collection of over 10,000 sketches by master artists, which have never been exhibited in any museum, but you can request an unforgettable private viewing led by a museum curator. We gathered in the museum’s historical auditorium, where the best and brightest of bygone eras met to share ideas. As we huddled around the curator he pulled out priceless sketches by Rembrandt, Raphael and Michelangelo, including the latter’s preliminary sketches for the Sistine Chapel. In one drawing Michelangelo was working so tightly on the muscles of a man’s body that he ran out of paper for the arm and just put it on the other side. That’s a treasure, and so is the sketch showing the famous finger of God reaching out to Adam.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Brunstrum

 

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

 

In another piece Rembrandt was focusing almost totally on a man's face but the clothing was just roughed in. He wanted to get the features right, so the rest of the figure just receded for him. Looking at these sketches is like observing the thought process of geniuses. I imagined them thinking ‘how am I going to get from here to there?’

 

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

 

I also was reminded a bit of the creative process we go through in interior design. We can’t compare ourselves to the world’s master artists, but there is a similarity – creativity takes time, and if it is rushed, the results can suffer. Michelangelo spent four years sketching and then painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and today we’re all glad that Pope Julius was a patient pontiff!

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