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The second most important state museum in Holland is The Hague Mauritshuis.
In the center of a modern bustling city, on the banks of a large pond that once served as a moat, stands Binnenhof - an old castle of the Dutch counts. In the inner courtyard of the castle rises the so-called Knight's Hall. This is one of the oldest buildings preserved in the Netherlands - a medieval chamber for ceremonial receptions, which, if necessary, could become the last bastion of defense against the enemy. In the 17th century, the Binnenhof became the residence of the staffagalters - the princes of Orange of Nassau. A mash of medieval buildings, often adjoining the remains of fortress walls, surrounded a rectangular inner square. All this was rebuilt in order to accommodate the courtyard and office of the staff of the halter. From the old fortress, in addition to the Knight's Hall, there was a layout, faceted turrets in the corners, and a wide pond, on the opposite bank of which large silver willows grow. The originality of Binnenhof consists in a picturesque combination of different elements of different times. The architectural unity of a small classical building, which looks into the water next to it, is more acute.
Harmonious in proportions, at the same time a simple and majestic palace, Mauritshuis was built in 1633-1644 for Prince Johann-Moritz of Nassau-Siegen, one of the relatives of the staffalter. It was built by the architect Peter Post according to the plans of Jacob van Kampen. This is one of the first palaces in the Netherlands in the classical style, borrowed from Renaissance Italy. Dutch architects with exquisite craftsmanship adapt it to national traditions and habits.
The main facade of the square building is located on the opposite side of the pond. The visitor enters the spacious lobby, from which a magnificent staircase with different oak railings leads to the second floor. In elegantly and strictly decorated rooms, the palace parade is combined with the comfort of a private residential building.
Mauritshuis to some extent retains the character of the “art cabinet” - a collection of rare and especially valuable masterpieces. His collection is relatively small and does not claim to be a complete reflection of the history of national art, but there are a number of works by Rembrandt and Vermeer relating to their greatest achievements. In a somewhat old-fashioned hang, beautiful, decorative works of the 17th century Flemish masters look good. The section of the so-called "primitives" presents masters of the XV-XVI centuries, who worked not only in the Server, but also in the Southern Netherlands.
The split of the Netherlands into two states - the Protestant bourgeois republic in the North (Holland) and the Catholic possession of the Spanish king in the South (Flanders) - the addition and brilliant flowering of two deeply different national cultures can be clearly imagined passing through the halls of Mauritshuis. Usually in the Dutch museums the works of Flemish masters are rarely found, and in the Belgian museums - Dutch; not without reason from the end of the 16th century the Northern and Southern Netherlands often quarreled and fought among themselves for a long time. In Mauritshuis, along with the Dutch national school, Flanders painting is quite widely represented. In the halls of the XV-XVI centuries the works of the masters of Bruges or Antwerp and Amsterdam coexist. Naturally, the heirs of these masters - both in Flanders and in Holland - are represented in the collection of the museum.
Mauritshuis owns the works of all three great masters of Holland of the XVII century: Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer Delft. Their creative maturity is associated with different stages of development of Dutch painting of the XVII century. Historical conditions had a noticeable effect on them, however, an unusually peculiar and strong individuality of each played a no lesser role, so their art represents various aspects, various aspects of Holland's art.
For many years post museum director Mauritshuis held Professor Bredius, an outstanding connoisseur of Rembrandt's painting. He was rich and spent his money on the purchase of paintings by the master, which after the death of a professor (1946), according to his will, became the property of museums. Among these paintings are such outstanding late works by Rembrandt as “Two Negroes”, “Homer”, “David and Saul”. They were written in the late 1650s - early 1660s, when a ruined artist, rejected by the burgher Amsterdam, tragically experienced his creative loneliness.
In the Mauritshuis Collection the great masters of the 17th century - Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer - are surrounded by their contemporaries. Here are the works of Terborch and the Wall, Reusdal and Art van der Nehr - landscapes, portraits, genre scenes, now quiet, now noisy and cheerful. There is an extensive collection of works by the famous Dutch painter of the XVIII century Cornelis Trost, in particular a series of five pastels depicting the various stages of a bachelor's binge, “Meetings of Friends at Biberius” (1739-1740). Latin inscriptions on old frames ironically comment on the events: “It was noisy in the house”, “Who could walk; who could not fall ”, etc.
Apart from the museum’s exposition is a small hall dedicated to German Renaissance painting. The remarkable works of Hans Holbeim the Younger (1497 / 98-1543) - “The Man with the Falcon” (1542) and especially the “Portrait of Robert Cheesman” (1533), also depicted with a falcon in his hand, are notable here. The portrait is distinguished by Holbein's authenticity, severe restraint of the image and special decorative expressiveness of wide spots and local colors. The paintings of German artists serve as a complement and contrast to the works of their Dutch contemporaries, exhibited in neighboring halls. There is much in common between them, but there is also a profound difference stemming from the originality of various national cultures.