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Acquisition of the Year

21 November 2017

Van Otterloo and Weatherbie Promised Gift: 113 works by Dutch and Flemish artists, 17th century

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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On 11 October, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts announced the extraordinary promised gift it has received from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, two well-known collecting couples who live in the region and are longtime donors to the institution. The Van Otterloo and Weatherbie gift includes the couples’ respective collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting, carefully assembled over the course of almost three decades, and comprising a total of 113 pictures by 76 artists. In addition, the Van Otterloo and Weatherbie gift will provide funding for a scholarly Center for Netherlandish Art, to be established at the MFA, which will house the library of the late Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, whose more than 20,000 books on Dutch and Flemish art will also be given by the Van Otterloos.

Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–1669). Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Van Otterloo collection, often considered the most distinguished collection of its kind in private hands, aims to give a representative overview of the art of Holland’s Golden Age. It includes 85 pictures, all in outstanding condition, among them first-rate examples of virtually each genre of 17th-century Dutch painting – landscapes (three Jacob van Ruisdaels, a lovely Hendrick Avercamp), portraits (a fine late Frans Hals), still lifes (Ambrosius Bosschaert, Adriaen Coorte), and so on. The collection’s most touching work may well be Gerrit Dou’s Dog at Rest (1650), but its centrepiece is without doubt Rembrandt’s early Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), which will complement the MFA’s Rembrandt holdings beautifully and bring their number up to six. In addition to the many Dutch works, the Van Otterloo gift includes a small selection of Flemish pictures, among them Peter-Paul Rubens’s dramatic Crucifixion (1618–20)

The Weatherbie collection, which has never been exhibited in its entirety, has been assembled along the same lines, but is smaller, comprising 28 paintings. Among its Dutch highlights are, for example, works by Pieter Saenredam and Willem van de Velde the Younger, while its Flemish pictures include such works as Osias Beert’s Still Life with Various Vessels on a Table (c. 1610) and Rubens’s Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1623).

Dog at Rest (1650), Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 1613–1675). Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Van Otterloo and Weatherbie paintings will formally enter the MFA over time. Until then, the two couples intend to keep adding paintings to their collections. Their exceptional promised gift, which will almost double the MFA’s 17th-century Dutch and Flemish collections, constitutes the largest donation of Old Master paintings received by the institution since its founding in 1870. It is currently being celebrated with a special installation integrating works from the Van Otterloo and Weatherbie collections in the MFA’s Dutch and Flemish galleries, on view until 15 January 2018.

Esmée Quodbach

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