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One of Europe's greatest museums, the Mauritshuis is currently closed for essential renovation work until mid-2014. During this time, thankfully, one hundred of its most important works are on temporary display at the., including some fabled paintings as Vermeer's View of Delft.
When the museum reopens, it will have double the floor area, thanks to the creation of a new modern underground lobby (linking the structure with the neighboring Plein 26 building) and a new wing for a café, museum shop, education area, library, and auditorium. To quote the website: "The Mauritshuis of the future will be a cultural meeting place where visitors will not just look at art, but truly experience it." In point of fact, the old Mauritshuis was magnificent enough, thanks to its incomparable feast of art, including no less than 14 Rembrandts, 10 Jan Steens, and 3 Vermeers. The latter's remarkable View of Delft takes pride of place; its rediscovery in the late 19th century assured the artist's eternal fame. In the same room is Vermeer's (1632-75) most haunting work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired Tracy Chevalier's 1999 best-selling novel as well as the 2003 filmed version. For something completely different, look to Jan Steen (1626-79), who portrayed the daily life of ordinary people in the Netherlands of the 17th century. His painting The Way You Hear It Is the Way You Sing It is particularly telling. Don't miss local boy Paulus Potter's vast canvas The Bull, complete with steaming cow dung; the 7-foot-by-11-foot painting leaves nothing to be said on the subject of beef on the hoof.
As an added treat, the original building itself is worthy of a 17th-century master's brush: a cream-color mansion tucked into a corner behind the Parliament complex and overlooking the Hofvijver river. It was built around 1640 for one Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau-Siegen and governor-general of Dutch Brazil. The pair behind its creation, Jacob van Campen and Pieter Post, were the two most important Dutch architects of their era. Soon to be brought beautifully into the 21st century, this will truly be one of the finest museums in Europe.
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