A Spectacular Acquisition

Press release

A Spectacular Acquisition
A Masterpiece of Early Netherlandish Drawing
until 15 March 2014

The purchase of this mysterieus fifteenth-century drawing was made possible thanks to contributions from major funds. After the drawing featured on Dutch TV in 2012, thousands of curious art lovers flocked to Rotterdam to see it. The work can be seen again for the next few weeks before it travels to Paris.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen had been keen to purchase the rare drawing by Jan van Eyck or a follower from the private individuals who owned it since it was discovered in 2012. With the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt and her Dura Fonds, Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Mondriaan Fonds and the VSBfonds this dream has now become a reality. The work will be added to the City of Rotterdam’s collection. The drawing will be on show in a special display in the museum for a month before travelling to ‘Bosch to Bloemaert. Early Netherlandish Drawing in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam’ at the Custodia in Paris. Director Sjarel Ex said, “We very much appreciate the fact that the owners have entrusted the work to Boijmans and the city, and are very grateful to the funds for making the purchase possible.’’

The Discovery
Friso Lammertse, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s curator, was alerted to the existence of the drawing by a colleague during preparations for ‘The Road to Van Eyck’, an exhibition staged by the museum in 2012. The exact whereabouts of the drawing were unknown. Enquiries led to its discovery in the north of the Netherlands. It emerged that a psychiatrist and collector from Groningen had bought the work - a Crucifixion of Christ - at a sale in Slochteren in 1971 for ten guilders. The scene reminded him of a painting by Jan van Eyck dating from around 1430 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and he thought that the drawing must date from the same period. However the then director of the Rijksmuseum’s Print Room in Amsterdam decided on the basis of a black and white photograph that it was a nineteenth-century copy.

The Drawing
The Crucifixion of Christ can be seen amidst an enormous crowd of people in front of a high horizon with Jerusalem visible in the distance. The drawing is astonishing in its consistently sophisticated and detailed execution.

New Research
Extensive research carried out last year revealed that the work dated from the fifteenth century. Immediately after ‘The Road to Van Eyck’ closed, the work was assessed by six international specialists in the symposium in Boijmans that followed. There was a lively debate about who made it and precisely when was it made. Some of the experts were convinced that it was a drawing by Jan van Eyck himself; others saw it as a work by an assistant or a follower made in the second half of the fifteenth century. The discovery of the drawing is one of the most spectacular finds in the field of early Netherlandish draughtsmanship in recent decades. There are only seven hundred drawings by fifteenth-century Netherlandish artists still in existence. In no more than two percent of the cases is the artist known - the rest are by anonymous makers.

Bosch to Bloemaert
A selection from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s unique collection of old drawings will be exhibited in the Fondation Custodia in Paris - the first time they have been seen in France. From 22 March to 22 June 2014, the Rotterdam museum, which has one of the most comprehensive collections of fifteenth - and sixteenth-century Netherlandish drawings, will present no fewer than 142 of its most magnificent works - from Jheronimus Bosch to Pieter Bruegel and Abraham Bloemaert-to the French public.

The exhibit in Rotterdam explores the work and examines the various details. It is accompanied by a short film about the discovery and the drawing’s history. The film can also be seen on ARTtube, the online video platform.