Two hundred children waving flags and one somewhat overwhelmed museum director welcomed a €175 million Rembrandt painting to the permanent collection of the Rijksmuseum on Thursday.
Rembrandt’s The Standard Bearer – a portrait of the artist himself – is considered a vital piece in the development of the 17th century master’s loose style and a painting that foreshadowed The Night Watch.
One of the last Rembrandt masterpieces that was still in private hands, it was acquired from the Rothschild banking family for the Rijksmuseum with a controversial €150 million grant from the Dutch government, and donations from the Rembrandt Association and Rembrandt Fund.
It has been touring every province and has now been ceremonially welcomed to the Rijksmuseum to stand permanently by The Night Watch – and all visitors are welcome to see it free of charge on Saturday 17 June.
Alongside classics of Dutch paintings are also hanging 12 flags designed by 12 schools from across the Netherlands in honour of the acquisition – and a class from each was present at the opening ceremony.
Taco Dibbits, general director of the Rijksmuseum, gave a short interview with children’s television presenter Sosha Duysker. “The Rijksmuseum is for all of the Netherlands, with the best painters in a history of more than 200 years to the work of young artists… and that is you,” he said to his audience.
“You are hanging here together with Rembrandt, Vermeer, Aelbert Cuyp, Frans Hals…and 200 young people are the flag bearers today. The standard bearer was the man who in the 17th century had to protect the land, and that is you.”
Artwork from the children – chosen from 550 entries – featured themes such as equality, the impact of earthquakes on Groningen and climate change.
The Standard Bearer, a typical character leading the troops in the Eighty Years’ War that led to the birth of the Netherlands in 1648, was painted with a rebellious bravado by the 30-year-old Rembrandt, according to art experts.
Dibbits added in a statement: “The Standard Bearer is one of the great self-portraits of Rembrandt and his artistic breakthrough. Proud and disarming at the same time, it is a tribute to humanity.”
The Standard Bearer will be on view, free, at a Rijksmuseum open day on June 16
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