The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) has announced that Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie have made a commitment to give their exceptional collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art to the Museum—a donation that will constitute the largest gift of European paintings in MFA history. The Boston-area collectors plan to give the MFA not only their art collections, but also a major research library and funding to establish a Center for Netherlandish Art at the MFA, the first of its kind in the U.S.
The donation of 113 works by 76 artists—including one of the finest Rembrandt portraits in private hands—will elevate the Museum’s holdings into one of the country’s foremost collections of Dutch art from the Golden Age and significantly strengthen its representation of Flemish paintings from the time. The Center for Netherlandish Art will encourage sharing works of art with wide audiences through collaborative study, generous loans and a commitment to mentoring the next generation of scholars, furthering the Museum’s mission to bring art and people together.
“We are extremely grateful to the Van Otterloos and Weatherbies for their deep commitment and for their support of the mission of the Museum in such a generous way,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “Rose-Marie, Eijk, Susan and Matt are path-breaking collectors and philanthropists. Together, their paintings, combined with those of the MFA, complement each other and enrich our understanding of Dutch and Flemish art. Truly, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. We are honored to display, preserve and care for these masterworks, share them with the world, and nurture generations of scholars in the years ahead.”
By integrating these two exceptional private collections—formed by the Van Otterloos and Weatherbies through decades of committed connoisseurship—with the MFA’s, the Museum will nearly double its holdings of Dutch and Flemish paintings. Beautifully conserved and of the highest quality, works from the promised gifts include all categories of Dutch painting for which the republic of the Netherlands was (and is) best known—portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, flower pictures, cityscapes and architectural paintings. Together, they afford insight into the 17th-century Dutch way of life, whether it’s through a humorous genre scene by Jan Steen, a luxurious still life by Willem Kalf,
a poetic landscape by Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael,
an atmospheric marine by Willem van de Velde the Younger
or a vibrant flower picture by Rachel Ruysch. Among the Flemish paintings
Peter Paul Rubens, Coronation of the Virgin, about 1623Oil on panel. Susan and Matthew Weatherbie Collection.
are important oil sketches by Peter Paul Rubens,
portraits by the influential Anthony van Dyck,
Still Life with Various Vessel on a Table Osias-Beert
works by pioneering still life painter Osias Beert,
and landscapes by Jan Brueghel the Elder.
“Eijk and I couldn’t be happier that our collection will find a home at the MFA, where it can be displayed, loaned and shared with the widest possible audiences,” said Rose-Marie van Otterloo. “We believe in the MFA and its vision for the Center as a way to stimulate new ideas and connoisseurship, and keep Dutch and Flemish art alive for generations to come.”
A major highlight of the gifts is Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn’s moving Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632). In nearly perfect condition, the portrait displays delicate tones of black-on-black and virtuosic control of the brush. Aeltje Uylenburgh was the cousin both of Rembrandt’s wife-to-be, Saskia, and the prominent art dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh, with whom Rembrandt lived when he first arrived in Amsterdam. In addition to subtly describing the inner life of the subject, the painting provides a crucial bridge between Rembrandt’s early years in his native Leiden, exemplified by the MFA’s
Artist in his Studio (1628), and his establishment as a successful portraitist in Amsterdam, illustrated in works such as the Museum’s
Reverend Johannes Elison (1634)
and Maria Bockenolle (Wife of Johannes Elison) (1634).
The gift of Aeltje will bring the number of Rembrandt paintings in the MFA’s collection to an astounding six and is one of many instances where the promised gifts will complement the MFA’s holdings.