Opulence in Disguise

The Netherlands' Golden Age

Sep 09, 2017

In the 17th century, the Netherlands witnessed a Golden Age of economic prosperity. With it came a booming art market. The BMA recently renovated and expanded gallery space to better tell this story through its growing collection of Dutch and Flemish art, as well as through new approaches to interpretation, especially in a digital format.

“One of the key goals of the project is to make the collection more accessible and inviting through a new and more spacious presentation and new interpretation in the gallery and online, which visitors can access on their phones,” said Dr. Robert Schindler, The Fariss Gambrill Lynn and Henry Sharpe Lynn Curator of European Art.

Visitors are invited to engage with the artworks through the Museum’s re-launched digital smartguide, which provides historical information in more depth, allows for closer looking and offers expanded audio-visual content. Interactive touchscreens also explain the hidden iconography of Dutch and Flemish paintings, global intersections within the Museum’s collection, and intriguing back stories in the category, “The Curator’s Eye.” Various thematic gallery guides also explore everyday life for the Dutch, as well as the far-reaching power and influence of the Dutch Republic.

Much attention has been placed on conservation of the Museum’s collection of 17th-century Old Master paintings, as well as new frames that better show what these objects would have looked like on the walls of Dutch homes.

This newly conceptualized gallery breathes new life into the Museum’s collection, as it delves into the period’s taste for understated luxury and the social, economic, and political forces that led the Netherlands to such wealth and prestige during the 17th century.

The expansion and reinstallation of The Featheringill Gallery was made possible by the City of Birmingham, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc., and the following generous supporters: Camille Butrus, Mrs. Peter G. Smith, The Cather Family Foundation, Mel and Linda Cleveland, and Patrick Cather