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.
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.
Doe eens normaal @albertheijn Zogenaamd trots en dankbaar op je personeel, maar wel de tekst "minimumloon 14 euro" weg fotoshoppen? Zie foto. Gunnen jullie je personeel die in de frontlinie staan vd strijd tegen de coronacrisis niet eens n fatsoenlijk inkomen v 14 euro per uur? pic.twitter.com/wi7Y5dZ1RG
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.
In the Lakenhal now, two paintings depicting ancient Greek mythology, as told by Roman poet Ovid, hang side by side.
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.
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 2006 was Rembrandt, then born 400 years ago in Leiden.
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].
[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.
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.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England will show this exhibition from 27 February till 7 June 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.