Botanical garden during coronavirus spring


This 8 April 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Now that we cannot enjoy the Hortus botanicus Leiden [because of coronavirus], we’d like to bring the Hortus to you. So enjoy the spring in the botanic garden with #hortusathome. Enjoy.

On 9 April, an exhibition starts in the Leiden botanical garden. Because of the coronavirus, visitors cannot go to it. So, now, the exhibition is online.

They say about the exhibition:

The Hortus botanicus Leiden will be highlighting the plants that made the Atlantic crossing in the exhibition From Columbus to the Mayflower: seeds over the sea, from 9 April to 26 November 2020.

In 2020 it will be 400 years since the voyage of the Mayflower, which sailed to America with a group of English separatists known as the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ on board. Before the Pilgrim Fathers made the crossing and founded the Plymouth Colony in 1620, they lived and worked in Leiden, free of persecution for their faith by the English crown.

Four hundred years after this voyage, America, England, the Native Nations and the Netherlands will be cooperating in organizing commemorative activities. Not only the story of the Pilgrim Fathers will be spotlighted, but also the cultures and places with which they came into contact. The city of Leiden will join in with the international commemoration via the Leiden 400 theme, including a programme of events covering culture, science, education, heritage, heritage-tourism and society.

The Hortus botanicus Leiden will be highlighting the plants that made the Atlantic crossing in the exhibition From Columbus to the Mayflower: seeds over the sea, from 9 April to 26 November 2020. The herbarium compiled by the Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585) will be used as a guide; the Pilgrim Fathers brought a copy of this book with them on their crossing and it already included a number of plants from the ‘New World’ such as maize, tomato, tobacco, pumpkin and the sunflower.

Albert Heijn corporation censors shop workers


This 31 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa reports on strikes by workers at Amazon, Whole Foods and others as fears surrounding coronavirus grow.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Albert Heijn branch in Leiden under fire for photoshopping

An Albert Heijn branch in Leiden is under attack on social media after it posted an edited photo on Facebook. The photo shows that AH staff on the sidewalk are given a heart with the text ‘supermarket shelf fillers, we can not do without you’. But the original photo also had the text ‘minimum wage 14 euros’, which was removed in the version of the AH branch.

Albert Heijn has now removed the photo. “The photo was indeed edited”, said a spokesman. “The store is happy with all the statements of support. But removing part of the text was not convenient, the store now sees that.”

The chalk on the doorstep was an action by the FNV trade union, which wants a national minimum wage of 14 euros. Ruben Bres, one of the sidewalk warriors, told the local radio station Sleutelstad FM that these are hard times for the staff and that they are now extra appreciated.

This tweet says, translated:

So-called pride and gratitude for your workers, but photoshopping the text “minimum wage 14 euros” away? See picture.

Do you not even give your staff on the frontline of the fight against the corona crisis a decent income of 14 euros per hour?

Naturalis museum video


This 15 January 2020 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself:

We are Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Through our impressive collection, knowledge and data, we record all life on Earth. This is important, as our future depends on biodiversity. Everything in nature is connected, and balance is vitally important for its continued existence. Naturalis has a passion for nature. We research nature in order to preserve biodiversity. This is how we contribute to solutions for major, global issues involving climate, living environment, food supply and medicine.

Young Rembrandt exhibition in his birthplace


This 1 November 2019 Dutch video is about the exhibition Young Rembrandt, rising star in the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, the Netherlands: the city where Rembrandt was born.

This video is the sequel.

There are about 40 paintings, 70 etches and 10 drawings in the exhibition.

Besides work by Rembrandt, there is also work by his teachers Lastman and Van Swanenburg. And by his colleague Jan Lievens, and by Rembrandt pupils.

It is the first-ever exhibition about Rembrandt’s time from 1624, when he made his first painting; till 1634, when he married Saskia van Uylenburgh and had definitely left Leiden for Amsterdam.

I visited this exhibition on 11 January 2019.

On my way to the museum, I saw four great cormorants sitting on a sail of the reconstructed windmill of Rembrandt’s father. A fifth cormorant flew towards them, landing on the same sail.

In the Lakenhal now, two paintings depicting ancient Greek mythology, as told by Roman poet Ovid, hang side by side.

Rembrandt, The abduction of Proserpina

The oldest of the two was The abduction of Proserpina, from 1630-1631. The picture depicts Pluto, the god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina (Persephone in Greek), daughter of Ceres (Demeter in Greek), the goddess of agriculture.

Pieter Lastman, who taught the young Rembrandt, had inspired his pupil to make paintings about biblical history, antique history and mythology. Yet, if we compare what Rembrandt painted about and what his older contemporary and inspiration Rubens painted about, then we see a striking difference. 75% of Rubens’ work had religious or antique historical and mythological subjects. With Rembrandt, only 25% of his work fitted into these categories. While 70% of Rembrandt’s work were portraits, including self-portraits. Only 15% of Rubens’ work were portraits; 0% self-portraits.

So, Rembrandt painted far less historical and mythological paintings than Rubens. Five of his works have themes from Ovid; less than many other 17th century artists.

In countries other than the Dutch Republic, these types of paintings often made complimentary allusions to contemporary princes and nobles, and/or were often commissioned by them.

In The Netherlands, there was no monarchical court comparable to this.

There was only the Stadhouder‘s court.

Which would have liked very much to be a princely court like elsewhere in Europe; but constitutionally wasn’t.

Rembrandt got a commission from that princely court (princely, as the Stadhouders were also absolute monarchs in the tiny statelet of Orange in southern France).

But when his portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms, wife of Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik, turned out to be not flattering enough, his relationship to that court deteriorated.

An Hermitage Amsterdam exhibition noted that Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik prefered painters from the feudal southern Netherlands, though that region was the military enemy, to “bourgeois” northern painters like Rembrandt. He also prefered Gerard van Honthorst to Rembrandt as a painter of portraits of his wife. Honthorst was not from the Spanish occupied southern Netherlands. However, his home province Utrecht in the central Netherlands was less bourgeois rebellious than Rembrandt’s Holland. And Honthorst had spent much time in feudal Italy.

Nevertheless, if compared to Rubens, Rembrandt painted many more portraits.

The sky in the Abduction of Proserpina painting is a special blue: lapis lazuli, which is expensive. He could afford that as the painting was commissioned by Frederik Hendrik; in 1630-1631, before that 1632 conflict on the portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms.

The Amalia van Solms portrait is not in Leiden. A Lakenhal worker explained to me that it had been complex to borrow Rembrandt works from other museums. It had not been possible to borrow the Amalia portrait from Paris in France.

Which is a pity, as that painting and its history are important for understanding the relationship between Rembrandt and his clients, whether princely aristocrats or urban bourgeois.

The Dutch weekly Leids Nieuwsblad of 18 July 2006 has a report by Werner Zonderop of a lecture, by Christopher Brown, of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, in Leiden. Chistopher Brown has put together this 2019-2020 Leiden rembrandt exhibition.

Brown’s subject in 1906 was Rembrandt, then born 400 years ago in Leiden.

Rembrandt, portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms

From the report (translated):

[Constantijn] Huygens [private secretary of Prince and Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik] made it possible for Rembrandt to get his first commissions at the Stadhouder’s court [in The Hague].

In this way, in 1632, Rembrandt was allowed to paint the portrait of Amalia von Solms [1602-1675], the wife of Frederik Hendrik.

[She was thirty years old then; eighteen years younger than her husband].

However, the princess of Orange, [nee Countess of Solms-Braunfels], did not like the portrait as it turned out, at all.

She thought her appearance had not been idealized.

To her indignation, Rembrandt painted her too much as she really was: the mouth stiff and grim, knob-nosed and fat, with a rather stern look.

The Abduction of Proserpina painting, now in Leiden, is usually in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Next to it in the Leiden exhibition is a Rembrandt painting of one year later: The Abduction of Europa. No longer commissioned by the Stadhouder, but by an Amsterdam businessman.

Rembrandt, Abduction of Europa

It is about the Phoenician princess Europa being abducted by the Greek god Zeus (Jupiter in Latin), disguised as a bull.

Normally, that work is in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the USA. The two museums were only willing to send these two similar paintings to Leiden, because now for the first time ever they would hang next to each other.

Another conspicuous 1631 painting in the Lakenhal was a depiction of then 12-year-old German Prince Rupert and his tutor. An article suggests that the prince’s father was not satisfied with the portrait, thinking there was too little emphasis on his son and too much on the non-princely tutor. So, Rembrandt left Leiden for Amsterdam and had his artist pupil Gerrit Dou finish the Prince Rupert painting. Prince Rupert would later play a role in the English civil war.

Prince Rupert and his tutor, by Rembrandt

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England will show this exhibition from 27 February till 7 June 2020.

Reconstructed Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands


This Dutch October 2019 video is about Naturalis museum in Leiden, recently reopened after reconstruction.

As I wrote, I visited that museum on 16 December 2019.

Much has changed since before reconstruction.

Then, the museum entrance was in the 17th century Pesthuis building. Now, it is a 21st-century door, leading to a big 21st-century entrance hall.

Then, after buying a ticket, you proceeded on a roofed footbridge across a road towards the five-story main building. Now, the entrance hall is part of the new nine-story main building.

The footbridge is gone. On it, there were sometimes temporary photo exhibitions. And there were two life-size plastic rhinos, and a much smaller life-size plastic baby rhino.

That baby rhino is now at the meeting point in the entry hall. Its two plastic ‘parents’ are now in the new Life Science hall on the ground floor. For that hall, in which visitors can meet and talk to researchers working on Triceratops dinosaurs, on African plants or other natural history stuff, you don’t need to buy a museum ticket. The Life Science hall is a bigger version of a hall formerly in the Pesthuis. Its collection of Dutch animal species has been moved there: hundreds of stuffed Dutch bird species, drawers with butterflies, moths, other insects, mammal bones, etc. There is more space in the new bigger hall for the dolphin skeletons hanging from the ceiling. Now, there is space for a big whale skeleton as well.

The museum restaurant and auditorium have moved from the Pesthuis to the new main building as well.

We did not have time on 16 December to see all the new museum halls. After the ground floor, we went to the highest exhibition hall, on the eighth story. The theme of that hall is Death. There are many natural history museums all over the world, but Naturalis is the only one with a gallery about death.

Naturalis writes about it:

Quite literally, death leads to rebirth. As nature’s circle of life treats both equally, it’s no wonder that a museum about every aspect of life should devote a gallery to death.

The exhibits show how the death of some animals makes life possible for other animals. Eg, a dead deer feeds many microbes, insects, birds from robins to buzzards, foxes, wild boar

In the middle of the maze-like gallery, there is sensurround animation film about life and death in a Dutch nature reserve, from winter to summer to winter again: mushrooms growing and dying, a red fox killing a rabbit to feed its cub, etc.

I did not have time to see the Seduction gallery. The museum writes about it:

The Seduction gallery is all about procreation in nature. In a playful way, it illustrates the rituals of courting, coupling, and raising offspring.

This time, I also did not see the Earth gallery; about geology.

Though there are many improvements compared to the old museum, there is also criticism that not enough attention is paid to evolution. In the older, more crowded, museum exhibits you could walk along the evolution of plant and animal life, from before the Cambrian era to the Cambrian era when there were no land plants and only marine invertebrate animals like the Burgess Shale fauna, to the rise of amphibians in the Devonian to the Mesozoic age of dinosaurs. About ten ago, there were just two dinosaur skeletons in the museum: a Camarasaurus and a Edmontosaurus. Plus a plastic head and a plastic leg of a Tyrannosaurus. After the age of dinosaurs, then onward to the Cenozoic age of mammals to the present.

Now, I saw only succinct information in the new dinosaur era hall about how dinosaurs, and also mammal-like reptiles which are distant ancestors of humans, evolved from the ancient chordate animal Pikaia.

The museum writes:

No visitor will want to skip this gallery, as it features our most prized asset: Trix the T. rex.

There are now also more dinosaurs. And marine Mesozoic reptiles from the Netherlands: Triassic nothosaurs from Winterswijk, and Cretaceous mosasaurs and turtles from Limburg province.

This 27 August 2019 video is especially about the dinosaur and Ice Age halls.

About millions of years later, there is the Early Humans gallery. It says about itself:

How did man come to be? Naturalis attempts to answer this sweeping question in an original way. It does so through a set of unique fossils belonging to Homo erectus, one of our earliest ancestors.

Still later, about 30,000 years ago, is the subject of the Ice Age hall. It shows the Netherlands of that last Ice Age, with animals like woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos and others.

For us on 16 December, the last hall was on the first floor. It is the Life gallery, showing many stuffed animals of present species, with videos of their lives projected on the walls.

Sauropod fossil to Naturalis? Here.

42 million natural history objects, video


This 13 August 2019 Dutch language video is about Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands; which after a long reconstruction will reopen on 31 August.

There will be not just new exhibition halls. There are also new storage halls for the 42 million natural history objects in the museum’s collection; as the video shows.

Naturalis museum in Leiden, reconstruction videos


A museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, the Naturalis natural history museum, has been closed for reconstruction for years. On 31 August it will re-open. Not only the new dinosaur hall with Tyrannosaurus rex Trix will be there. And not only a new hall, called ‘seduction’; about the love life of plants and animals. These videos shows other sides of the re-opened museum. The video on top shows big animals in the collection, like a sunfish.

This 24 July 2019 video is about a mammoth skeleton being brought to its new spot in the new Ice Age hall.

This 24 July 2019 video is about the fossil Stegosaurus and Camarasaurus brought to the new dinosaur hall. The Tyrannosaurus rex Trix, on a world tour then, followed later.

This 24 July 2019 video is about Naturalis biggest whale skeleton being affixed to the ceiling.

This 1 August 2019 is about a new hall about how animals die; like a red fox killing a duck.

This 17 June 2019 Dutch language video is about Naturalis’ new laboratory halls.

Naturalis museum, Leiden reconstructing


In Leiden in the Netherlands, after years of reconstruction recently the arts and history museum De Lakenhal reopened.

Another Leiden museum, the Naturalis natural history museum, has been closed for reconstruction for years.

On 31 August it will re-open. Not only the new dinosaur hall with Tyrannosaurus rex Trix will be there. The video is about a new hall, called ‘seduction’. It is about the love life of plants and animals. This 1 August 2019 video shows the zebra, the giraffe and the orangutan being brought to the new hall.