This will be the first
exhibition devoted to this important figure in Dutch history. In 2000 it
will be exactly 400 years since the Battle of Nieuwpoort. On display
will be a great many personal mementoes of Maurice (1567-1625):
great battles, suits of armour in gold, superb portraits, exotic animals,
maps and sea charts and richly illustrated manuscripts. His
importance as a military commander and in the fields of domestic
and international politics, court life and overseas expansion will be
Stadholder and prince
Prince Maurice, the son of William of Orange and Anna of Saxony, was
born at Castle Dillenburg in Germany. He was brought up there as
well because of the war in the Low Countries and the seizing of his
older half brother Philip Willem in Louvain by the Duke of Alva. At the
age of seventeen he succeeded his murdered father as stadholder of
the provinces of Holland and Zeeland. A few years later he became
stadholder of Overijssel, Utrecht and Gelderland.
He surrounded himself by nobles, artists, men of genius,
administrators and political allies at various levels of government, of
whom Grand Pensionary Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was one of the
best known. Portraits of family members such as William of Orange
and his children and portraits of Maurice at different ages by artists
like Van den Queeborn, Goltzius and Van Mierevelt will be brought
together at the exhibition for the first time.
Sumptuous court life
Maurices court, located in the stadholders quarters at the Binnenhof
in The Hague, was one of the principal power centres in the Dutch
Republic. Maurices titles, his office of stadholder and his military
victories made him a man of high international standing. Moreover,
his inclusion in 1613 in the Order of the Garter and the title of Prince of
Orange which he was allowed to adopt after the death of his brother
Philip Willem in 1618 gave him the status of a ruler. He deliberately
presented himself as such through his purchases of splendid works
of art, the sumptuous clothes of his courtiers and his exotic
menagerie. A ceremonial suit of armour in gold made for the Prince of
Wales from the Royal Armouries Collection in London and a silver
ewer and dish by Adam van Vianen will be in the exhibition. There will
also be superb portraits of Maurice in his princely finery by the court
artists Van de Venne and De Gheyn. Maurice was a great lover of
horses, which he called his favourite courtiers. De Gheyn painted a
life-sized portrait of the most famous horse and this will be on display.
Maurices taste for martial art and for art which reflected his love of
mathematics is evident from the many examples of landscape
gardening, fencing, architecture, cartography and perspective in the
exhibition. Particularly striking are the beautifully calligraphed journals
that formed part of his bookkeeping. These volumes dating from 1604
and decorated with his arms were only discovered during the
preparations for this exhibition and will be seen for the first time.
Maurice had a formidable reputation as a ladies man. He had a
long-term relationship with Margaretha van Mechelen, but never
married her. They had three love children who were brought up at
court as nobles. Margaretha had houses in Rijswijk and The Hague
near to the stadholders quarters and Maurices stud farm. In 1625 the
artist Esaias van de Velde recorded the courts visit to the fair and the
new stables in Rijswijk. This rarely seen painting from the Six
collection will be shown at the exhibition.
Outside his relationship with the Lady of Mechelen, Maurice had five
children by five other women. The proof of this, including an account
with receipts for the maintenance of the five illegitimate children not of
noble birth, will be on view. There is also a poem by Hugo de Groot in
which he complains about the fate of Margaretha van Mechelen.
The man of genius
The birth of the Dutch Republic and its economic growth during the
17th century cannot be separated from the figure of Maurice. As
commander of the army and the fleet, he introduced revolutionary
changes in the way war was waged. The quality of the army improved
and the Spanish came under increasing pressure from the
Republics war machine. The Battle of Nieuwpoort on 4 July 1600 was
the culmination of Maurices work and made him a hero of
international stature. Maurices systematic approach, together with his
cousin and brother-in-law Willem Lodewijk, the founding of
educational institutions and his special encouragement of the
development of instruments and the publication of books led to a
rapid growth of confidence in the economic potential of the Republic.
The Dutch thought of Maurice as the greatest of the men of genius
and it was said that with the aid of a miraculous telescope he could
see things that remained hidden from others. Playthings like the
sail-wagon and the technique of scooping out peat became symbols
for the Dutch who could sail over land and make fire from water.
Examples will be on view in the exhibition.
The world conqueror
Through his position as commander of the army and the fleet, his
stadholderate and his aristocratic status, Maurice played a prominent
part in the foreign policy of the Republic. Commercial interests and
warfare often go hand in hand. Many unusual mementoes of the
European and overseas expansion will be on display, such as
mounted cassowaries, an original letter from Maurice to the Sultan of
Atjeh, and krisses, necklaces, loin cloths, etc. from the collection of
the then celebrated Dr Paludanus of Enkhuizen.
Enemy of Van Oldenbarnevelt
Maurices pursuit of power was not approved of by eveyone. His
determination to continue the war against Spain was opposed above
all by the Holland merchants who wanted peace in the interests of
trade. The spokesman for the critics was Johan van Oldenbarnevelt,
Grand Pensionary of the powerful province of Holland and leader of
the Holland delegation in the States-General. Once the truce with
Spain was concluded, domestic political issues could be fought over.
The differences centred on foreign policy, the relation between church
and state and the autonomy of the provinces. Two parties came into
being: the Remonstrants with Van Oldenbarnevelt and the
Counter-Remonstrants with Maurice. In the end Maurice won and Van
Oldenbarnevelt was beheaded.
Maurice himself died in 1625. In his last years he had little success.
In 1625 Breda and Bahia de Todos los Sanctos in Brazil were lost.
Paintings of these events by Pieter Snayers and Andries van Eertvelt
will be on show. The exhibition ends with memories, among them an
impressive drawing by Jacques de Gheyn II done immediately after
Maurice had breathed his last.
Maurice, Prince of Orange is the last exhibition to be held in 2000 to
mark the 200th anniversary of the Rijksmuseum.