‘beautiful’, but also ‘a lot of money’

Rembrandt’s De Vaandeldrager tours Dutch museums. The Fries Museum has scooped.Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

‘As a country, we often buy junk for that kind of amount’, says Henk Bijkerk (81), ‘but this painting does not belong in that category’. Together with Dieuwke Gerbrandÿ (82), he is just around the corner from the light yellow room in the Fries Museum, where Rembrandts painted for the first time last Saturday. banner is visible. They heard the news on the radio Saturday morning and decided to get in the car right away. The two people in Drachten are not shocked by the purchase price of 175 million euros.

Bijkerk: ‘Painting is very valuable for our culture. Rembrandt was Dutch, so it is important that it can be seen here again now. ‘ In their assessment of the painting from 1636, the two agree: ‘Fantastic’. Gerbrandÿ finds the eyes and details in the flag bearer’s hand impressively painted. ‘And he was married to a hairdresser,’ says Gerbrandÿ. “So it’s nice to see this for the first time.”

The Fries Museum is starting the tour that the painting will do in all twelve provinces in the coming year. Tickets for the museum are sold out the first day, a spokesman said, though it often happens on Saturdays. That the trip starts in Friesland is due to the connections that Leiden Rembrandt van Rijn had with the province. For example, in 1634 he married the hairdresser Saskia van Uylenburgh in Sint Annaparochie, just over ten kilometers from where banner hanging now.

Rembrandt's Banner Carrier was exhibited for the first time on Saturday in the Fries Museum.  Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

Rembrandt’s Banner Carrier was exhibited for the first time on Saturday in the Fries Museum.Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

The painting will be exhibited in each province for a month, with the final destination being the Rijksmuseum’s Hall of Fame. The flag bearer has been privately owned by the French Rothschild banking family since 1840, until it was bought by the Netherlands last December for 175 million euros. The Dutch state deposited 150 million, the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandtforeningen paid the other 25 million.

The high price caused quite a stir, because it is much higher than the prices for works by other old masters in the art market. The timing of the acquisition did not work well either: the cultural sector suffered greatly from the corona restrictions that had been in place for almost two years.

The amount sends out a signal, says Rijksmuseum curator Friso Lammertse. He has just given a lecture on painting for visitors to the Fries Museum. ‘It shows that we as a society value such important works. I like that.’ His fellow curator at the Fries Museum, Marlies Stoter, thinks it is ‘fantastic’ that any Dutchman can come and see the work at a museum in the coming year.

In the Friesmuseet's hall, you can have yourself photographed by a photographer such as  the flag bearer.  Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

In the Friesmuseet’s hall, you can have yourself photographed by a photographer such as the flag bearer.Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

Opinions about the purchase price of 175 million are divided on Saturday. One visitor finds it justified by the work’s added value for Dutch culture, another finds it ‘ridiculous’. It’s really too much money, says Tineke Rasch (77). ‘I understand that Holland wants it, because it is very nicely made,’ she says. ‘But with all that misery in the world, I think it’s too much for this.’ After five minutes, she has seen it in the room where the painting hangs. She comes from Haarlem, but especially for The flag bearer she did not come north: “We actually went one floor higher for the French Impressionists in the exhibition. I probably should not say that, but I’m not really a Rembrandt fan.

The flag bearer will be exhibited in Leeuwarden until the end of May. The work then departs for the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, the first of eleven transports. ‘Yes, it’s really Fort Knox-like travel,’ says curator Stoter. The painting is at the museum in a closed display case about two meters high and one and a half meters wide.

This is not the case during the trip along twelve provinces. The display cabinet contains a climate system that keeps temperature and humidity stable. The painting is also secured in such a way that it can be transported without shocks. “It’s a very heavy thing,” Stoter says. “It was brought here last Friday by special transport and hoisted up. It took seven men to put it in the right place in the hall. ‘

Friends Sarah (18) and Myrthe (17) were actually shopping in Leeuwarden for a day. They got the tip from Myrthe’s mother that they could go to the Friesmuseet for free on Saturday, in honor of The flag bearer† “I do not know much about it, but I thought details like the folds in the clothes were very well done,” says Sarah. Myrthe is enthusiastic about the contrast between light and shadow in the painting.

The two friends laugh a little shocked at the purchase price. Myrthe: ‘I understand that Holland wants it because it’s part of the story. But we could also use the money for things like the housing shortage. ”

Trip through Holland

After the Frisian Museum is The flag bearer exhibited in Utrecht (Central Museum) in June. Followed by Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar. Drents Museum in Assen, Kunstlinie in Almere, Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Mauritshuis in The Hague, Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, Museum Arnhem, Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg, Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. And finally in April 2023 in the Groninger Museum.

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