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29 January 2020

Van Eyck painting on loan for first time

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is lending its fifteenth-century crown jewel by Jan Van Eyck to another museum for the first time. From 1 February, the painting The Three Marys at the Tomb, the only work by Jan van Eyck in the Netherlands, can be seen in the major Van Eyck exhibition in Belgium.

The Three Marys at the Tomb by van Jan van Eyck was once in the collection of Daniël George Van Beuningen. The art collector acquired it in London for £250,000, his most expensive purchase ever. Van Beuningen had a great love of Early Netherlandish painting, which formed the core of his collection. Van Eyck was one of the great innovators of this period and his painting was without doubt Van Beuningen’s most important purchase. This large panel is the only work by Jan van Eyck in the Netherlands.

'The Three Marys at the Tomb is now one of the jewels in the museum’s collection. The representation of light and shadow and the beautiful landscape show what a revolution Van Eyck brought about in painting at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It is not for nothing that the panel has been called the most important fifteenth-century Flemish painting in the Netherlands.’ Curator Friso Lammertse



The Three Marys at the Tomb (1425-1435) is a rare and fragile panel that,  because of its great importance, has never left the museum. The painting was conserved in 2012 and can now be loaned on an exceptional basis. Only twenty works by the Flemish master have survived. The exhibition Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution in Ghent brings together works from all over the world, including Portrait of a Man with a Blue Chaperon (c.1428-30) from Romania and The Annunciation Diptych (c.1433-35) from Spain. 

Arab influence

In 2012, the museum’s curator of historical design, Alexandra van Dongen, made an important discovery. The blue-and-white apothecary jar held by one of the Marys in the painting was an import from Damascus in Syria. The painting thus shows that there was an exchange between different cultures in the fifteenth century. Furthermore, Syrian potters in Damascus copied the art of Chinese porcelain. The apothecary jar in Van Eyck's painting is the earliest known depiction of Arab pottery in European visual art.

Arab influence
Fragment of 'The Three Marys at the Tomb', Jan van Eyck, 1425-1435, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam More information

The Three Marys at the Tomb on ARTtube

In the lead-up to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s major exhibition The Road to Van Eyck in 2012, The Three Marys at the Tomb was restored and the process was recorded. In the film, available on ARTtube, curator Friso Lammertse sets out to investigate the painting and is confronted with some big surprises.

The Three Marys at the Tomb on ARTtube More information

Boijmans in Transit

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is modernising. Last year, the museum began a much-needed, large-scale renovation, which is expected to take seven years. During this Transit period, the museum is venturing out into Rotterdam and further afield to ensure that its world-class collection remains visible to the public. More than five hundred works of art from the collection are featured in eleven surprising exhibitions in the Rotterdam area. Boijmans has also curated a series of  exhibitions that are travelling to foreign museums. Since the beginning of the last academic year, the museum has been introducing schoolchildren in Rotterdam to real artworks from the collection in the programme ‘Boijmans in the Classroom’. In the meantime, the construction of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is nearing completion. The world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility will open in early 2021 and will house 154,000 works of art.