Renaissance portraits are in the frame at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum

·2-min read
The "Remember Me" exhibition at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum features over a hundred portraits, including a drawing of an anonymous man of African origin.

A forthcoming show at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum will trace the origin and evolution of portraiture as a standalone genre during the Renaissance. To achieve this, the museum has brought together more than a hundred paintings representing Dutch society of the time in all its diversity.

The "Remember Me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba" exhibition brings together masterpieces by Renaissance masters from museums all over Europe and the United States. Among them is "Portrait of a Young Woman" by Petrus Christus, one of the jewels in the collection of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. In fact, this is the first time this painting has left the German museum since 1994.

The Kunstmuseum in Basel has loaned several paintings to the Rijksmuseum, including "Double Portrait of Jakob Meyer zum Hasen and Dorothea Kannengießer" by Hans Holbein the Younger, while the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has temporarily parted with Jan Gossaert's "Portrait of a Man, possibly Jan Snoeck."

But two of the standout pieces in the exhibition are the sketch titled "Portrait of an African Man" by Albrecht Dürer and a portrait by Jan Jansz Mostaert dating from 1525. These two works have the particularity of being the two oldest portraits of African men in the history of European art, and are exhibited together for the first time in 500 years of existence in the "Remember Me" show.

While the delicate nature of Dürer's chalk-drawn portrait can explain why the works have not been brought together sooner, curator Friso Lammertse offers another explanation. He argues that these works have long been disregarded because of art history's very Eurocentric perspective. "Things have changed only really recently, with the Black Lives Matter movement," he told The Guardian.

While "Remember Me" focuses on the identities of the emperors, aristocrats and citizens whose portraits feature in the Rijksmuseum show, researchers know little about the subjects portrayed by Dürer and Jan Jansz Mostaert. The latter's artwork probably portrays Christophle the More, one of Emperor Charles V's personal bodyguards. However, the identity of the man drawn by Dürer remains a mystery.

"Remember Me. Portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba" runs October 1 to January 16, 2022 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Caroline Drzewinski

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