Painted wall hangings by Jurriaan Andriessen in the “Beuning room”

Research into the fragments of a painting ensemble.

As part of its new install of 2013 the Rijksmuseum exhibits one of the most beautifully preserved Rococo interiors as a period room. This so-called “Beuning room” was commissioned between 1744-1748 by the affluent merchant couple Beuning for their residence on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. Paneling parts, frames and doors are made out of Cuban mahogany, a very exclusive material at the time, and show superb craftsmanship. Similarly the richly ornamented stucco ceiling and the Rouge Royal marble fireplace are of remarkable class. The baptism of the Eunuch, signed and dated by Jacob de Wit in 1748, graces the overmantle. The iconography of this painting agrees well with the religious background of the Beuning couple, who were prominent members of the so-called Hernhutter community. What in their day occupied the spaces reserved for wall hangings above the paneling is unknown.

After 1781 the new owner of the building, the editor, bookseller and lottery organizer Jan de Groot, commissioned the painter of wall hangings Jurriaan Andriessen (1742-1819) with painted wall hangings for the Beuning room. Two sets of design drawings by his hand have been preserved. When the building on the the Keizersgracht (no. 187 at that time) was demolished in 1896 to make way for the construction of the Raadhuisstraat, only one painting by Andriessen’s hand was still present: an overdoor grisaille painting. This painting has been installed in the room in the Rijksmuseum. In the current exhibit the walls are hung in green damask featuring a woven-in eighteenth-century style pattern.

In 2013 the Rijksmuseum acquired two grisaille canvas paintings with life-size female figures, of which one is signed and dated by Jurriaan Andriessen in 1786. Suspicion arose that the paintings were in fact two fragments from the Beuning room ensemble. Expert on historical interiors and Andriessen, Dr. Richard Harmanni, observed that the female figures in the grisaille paintings receive frontal lighting, indicating that the works were meant for the wall directly opposing the windows. Only two sets of designs by Jurriaan Andriessen depicting grisailles in such a rear wall are known today: those for the Beuning room.

Both the overdoor that was already present and the two grisailles by Andriessen that were recently acquired were examined with material technical research methods in the project From Isolation to Coherence to further investigate the provenance of the two newly acquired fragments. This led to the conclusion that the preparatory stages of all three wall hangings are closely related. The canvases demonstrate similar levels of coarseness and also have strongly corresponding sets of ground layers and superimposed preparatory sketch. Infrared analysis has provided insight into the way that Andriessen organized his monumental paintings and how, to this end, he translated his design drawings into largescale compositions. An examination of the canvas edges furthermore revealed traces of the original frame in a red-gray imitation marble, which complemented the Rouge Royal marble fireplace mantle. This shows exactly how carefully Andriessen considered the existing interior when designing his wall hangings. In this case, technical research methods thus were able to confirm that the paintings were made for the Beuning room.

Based on Andriessen’s design sketches, the three preserved paintings by his hand, and the present state of the Beuning room, digital reconstructions have been made that give an impression of the room’s appearance during the time of Jan de Groot. An assessment of the optimal way to exhibit the fragments of Andriessen’s painted ensemble is currently ongoing. The upcoming restorations of the acquired wall hangings will be a determining factor in this.

Research into the painted wall hangings of Jurriaan Andriessen is conducted in collaboration with conservators, curators and scientists of the Rijksmuseum. Collaborations were also initiated with furniture conservator Joost Hoving (Hoving & Klusener), who was (partly) responsible for the restoration and installation of the Beuning room, and expert on historical interiors and Andriessen Dr. Richard Harmanni, author of Jurriaen Andriessen (1742-1819): “behangselschilder”. PhD Dissertation, Leiden University, Leiden 2006.

L. Vos, R. Harmanni, I. Verslype, J. De Fouw, J. Reynaerts, M. Van Eikema Hommes, “Researching and presenting fragments of late 17th and 18th century Dutch painted chambers: ‘re-presenting’ Jurriaan ANdriessen (1743-1819), a case-study”, in: Postprints of the American Institute of Conversation, AIC 43rd Annual Meeting Miami Fl. 2015 (forthcoming). /p>

J. de Fouw, “Acquisition of Jurriaan Andriessen painted wall hanging with peace and painted wall hanging with bacchante

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