In the nearly six years since I moved to Holland I have discovered lots of new artists, lots of beautiful small towns and learned a lot of Dutch history. Today I learned some more.
The Prinsenhof in Delft could be said to be the most important building in the country. It was there that William of Orange was assassinated, an event which led directly to the creation of the state of The Netherlands. This building currently houses an exhibition, Amalia. Ambitie met Allure (Amalia. Ambition with Allure), about a woman who could be described as the most important female figure in Dutch history.
I know a little of the history of this country but I must confess to never having heard of Amalia van Solms. However, after asking a few Dutch friends about her, I discovered I was not the only one. My enquiries produced more than a few blank stares and guilty admissions.
She was born in Braunfels Germany in 1602 and became Princess of Orange by marriage to Frederik Henrik, Prince of Orange. She acted as the political adviser to the Prince during his reign and became his de facto deputy and regent during his infirmity from 1640 to 1647. She was the grandmother of William III of England.
This beautiful exhibition follows chronologically the rise and rise of Amalia using paintings, engravings, documents and even pieces of furniture and household items, many of which are kept in Delft. From the beginning it becomes clear that the Princess was a woman to be reckoned with.
I have been to the Prinsenhof many times as I live only five minutes’ walk away and I am always in awe of the building and its history. The exhibitions it puts on are always beautifully mounted and Amalia. Ambitie met Allure is no exception.
The show is dominated by a series of huge discs suspended from the ceiling or mounted on wooden frames onto which various images are projected. They are maybe a bit too imposing but the exhibits more than hold their own. The first painting in the exhibition is possibly the most imposing of them all. The fine portrait of Frederik Hendrik by Michiel van Mierevelt shows the Prince in armour with the most elaborate ruff collar you have ever seen. There are, of course, lots of excellent double or pairs of portraits of the Royal couple as well as some unusual items like the portrait painted on a giant tortoise shell, a print of a tame elephant going through its paces and a doll’s house type maquette of Amalia’s bed chamber in Huis ten Bosch.
I liked the many landscapes, cityscapes and tableaux portraying historical events which put the life of Amalia into context, including an engraving of a French-style palace, Huis ter Nieuburch, built at Rijswijk in 1697 and orientated so it had a view over the spires of nearby Delft to the south.
This is a fascinating exhibition on many levels. There are some wonderful paintings and artefacts and the show has been lovingly curated and designed, but for me it was almost the story of Amalia herself that impressed the most. For a woman of such importance to the nation’s history it is surprising that she is not better known. Amalia. Ambitie met Allure will hopefully rectify that situation and throw light onto the life and times of a woman who was instrumental in making The Netherlands the nation it is today. Michael Hasted 16th September 2022
Amalia. Ambitie met Allure continues at the Prinsenhof in Delft until 8th January and is highly recommended.