Willem II art collection opens today

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Willem II's illustrious art collection will be opened today by his descendant, Willem-Alexander in Dordrecht. Among the collection items on show, visitors will be able to see a Rembrandt from the Metropolitan in new York, a Memling from the Louvre and a Velásquez from the Hermitage, the NOS reports. Once, the worldly collection was open to the public in king Willem II's palace in The Hague, the Kneuterdijk, but now the collection has been partly reconstructed for the exhibition in Dordrecht.

"King Willem II collected first and foremost for himself", curator Sander Paarlberg says. "His daughter Sophie writes that he took a small stroll through the hall every morning. It was an escape for him, a release from the kingly duties." He was such an ardent collector that he buried himself in debts to get his hands on the prize pieces. When Willem II unexpectedly passed away in 1849, he had a debt of 4.5 million guilders. He secretly borrowed a million from his brother-in-law, the Russian tsar Alexander I. "The family was in panic", Paarlberg says. "Willem had bought everything with an installment plan, and then that tsar shows up as well with his lone. People needed money fast, so everything that could make quick money was acquired." An internationally anticipated auction was arranged. The Dutch government didn't see the value in art, so a lot of the pieces were sold very cheaply, and were spread out over the border. In honor of the Netherlands-Russia year, 200 years of Oranje monarchy and 175 years independence of Luxemburg, the Dordrechts Museum wanted to work together with the Hermitage and the Luxemburg Villa Vauban to gather the collection together again, an ambitious project. Collection pieces have been gathered from various places to Dordrecht. From the Royal Collection came Wexy, the stuffed horse that Willem II rode in the battle of Waterloo. Het Loo palace has delivered two enormous candelabras. And paintings from the king of Denmark's personal collection have also come.

"It is our biggest exhibition ever. It's unique", Paarlberg says. Paarlberg doesn't think it's possible to gather the complete collection. "A lot has been sold to the Wallace-and Frick-collections, museums that don't actually lease out. But we have succeeded in being able to show all special aspects of the collection: Flemish primitives, the Dutch Golden Age, Italian prize pieces and the special drawings."