The Orange Hall in Huis ten Bosch

The rich visual significance of a monumental and comprehensive trompe-l’oeil.

The Orange Hall (Oranjezaal) in Royal Palace Huis ten Bosch is one of the most impressive and most well-preserved creations of the Golden Age. This illustrious project was commissioned by Amalia van Solms (1602-1675) in commemoration of her late husband, Stadtholder Fredrick Henry (1584-1647).

e dozens of paintings on canvas and the painted wooden architectural elements were executed between 1648 and 1652 by the “best painters in the country”, in the words of Amalia. It concerned twelve artists from both the Northern and Southern Netherlands, including Jacob Jordaens, Jan Lievens and Gerard van Honthorst. They worked for Amalia under the supervision of the painter-architect Jacob van Campen, who had designed the hall together with Amalia, and who, together with the painter-architect Pieter Post and secretary to the court Constantijn Huygens, also coordinated the project.

From 1998 to 2001 the Orange Hall underwent a restoration by Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg. Preceding and during this restoration, a large scale investigation of the paintings and decorations took place. This interdisciplinary research project was conducted by a group of experts that included conservators, art and architectural historians and chemists, and had as its goal to recover as fully as possible the Orange Hall’s original concept and the visual effects it was meant to achieve.

Margriet van Eikema Hommes started her study of material technical and pictorial aspects of the Orange Hall’s paintings during the restoration. In doing that, she closely collaborated with the conservators. She continued her research together with conservator and art historian Lidwien Speleers during the NWO project Comparative studies of paintings in the Oranjezaal (2002-2004), which formed part of the De Mayerne program. The chemical analyses were carried out by chemists from the FOM-Institute AMOLF.

But her NWO Innovational Research Incentives Scheme Veni grant offered the opportunity to pursue the research project further, and this is also true for the current Vidi project From Isolation to Coherence. This research has resulted in various publications including the book that was co-authored with Dr. Elmer Kolfin of the University of Amsterdam: Margriet van Eikema Hommes and Elmer Kolfin, De Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch. Een zaal uit loutere liefde, Waanders & De Kunst publishers, Zwolle 2013.

In this book the emphasis is on the rich iconographic and visual significance of the Orange Hall. It shows the significant role played by Amalia van Solms in the design’s conception, and how meticulously she incorporated the political and dynastic ambitions she had for her descendants. The paintings in the Orange Hall, which collectively glorified the virtues and accomplishments of Frederick Henry, are interpreted by Elmer Kolfin in the context of the tension between the stadtholderate and the monarchical dynastic claims of the Orange Nassau family. Margriet van Eikema Hommes shows, for the first time, that the hall should be understood as a large and ingenious trompe-l’oeil. The suggested lighting – corresponding to the natural light entering the hall – appears to have been preconceived in all its detail and ingeniously supports both the illusionistic form as well as sophisticated content of the paintings.

The restoration of the Orange Hall took place from 1998 to 2001 and was carried out by the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Anne van Grevenstein. Preceding, during and following this restoration a broad and interdisciplinary investigation of the paintings and decorations took place which entailed a collaboration by numerous institutes and experts.

The following institutions functioned as collaborators and co-sponsors: The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), The Government Buildings Agency (RGD), The Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL), FOM-Institute AMOLF, the Technical University Delft (TU-Delft), the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

L. Speleers, M. van Eikema Hommes, “The genesis of Jordaens’ paintings in the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch Palace”, in: A. Harmssen (ed.), Reframing Jordaens: Origin – Transformation – Conservation (in production: expected publication 2015).

M. van Eikema Hommes, L. Speleers, the sections “Observaties en technische informatie” and “Commentaar” in the entries for all 44 paintings in the Orange Hall: online publicatie Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Publicatie.

M. van Eikema Hommes and Elmer Kolfin, De Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch. Een zaal uit loutere liefde, Waanders & De Kunst publisherst, Zwolle 2013.

M. van Eikema Hommes, De Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch, Een magistrale stralende zon, in: Tijdschrift voor de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, (2014), no. 1.

L. Speleers and M. van Eikema Hommes, “Jordaens and the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch Palace. The paintings and the letters”, in: B.U. Münch and Z.Á. Pataki (eds.), Jordaens. Genius of grand scale / Genie großen Formats, Stuttgart 2012, pp. 131-163.

M.H. van Eikema Hommes and L. Speleers, “Nine muses in the Oranjezaal: the painting methods of Caesar van Everdingen and Jan Lievens confronted”, in: M. Spring (ed.), Studying old master paintings. Technology and practice. The National Gallery Technical Bulletin 30th Anniversary Conference Postprints, London 2011, pp. 157-164.

M.H. van Eikema Hommes, ‘“As though it had been done by just one Master”. Unity and diversity in the Oranjezaal (1648-1652), Huis ten Bosch’, in: A.W.A. Boschloo et al. (red), Aemulatio. Imitation, emulation and invention in Netherlandish art from 1500 to 1800. Essays in honor of Eric Jan Sluijter, Zwolle 2011, pp. 288-303.

M.H. van Eikema Hommes, ‘Pieter de Grebber’s Regulen (1649) and the Oranjezaal’, in Art Matters vol.3 (2005), pp. 20-36.

M.H. van Eikema Hommes and L. Speleers, ‘Pieter de Grebber and the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch: Part II: Variations in Painting Technique’, in Art Matters vol.3 (2005), pp. 37-46.

M.H. van Eikema Hommes, “The Contours in the Paintings of the Oranjezaal, Huis ten Bosch”, in: M. van den Doel et al. (eds.), The learned eye. Regarding art, theory, and the artists’ reputation. Essays for Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam 2005, pp. 58-84.

A comprehensive publication in English edited by Prof. Dr. Anne van Grevenstein and Prof. Dr. Rudi Ekkart (former RKD director) is planned for 2014, while the extensive catalogue with detailed information on all paintings and further documentation will appear as an online edition of the RKD.

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