It is home to some of the greatest masterpieces of Dutch painting in the world, including Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and the View of Delft (which ripples with light and texture on canvas but defies reproduction). I loved the way that Vermeer’s girl catches your eye across the room. “Don’t look at that painting of a Goldfinch,” she says. “Look at me.” Michiel Sweert’s eyes down, demure painting of a young maid is the perfect companion.
When I visited there was also an exhibition of Dutch portraiture which had displaced much of the permanent collection. I was delighted to see it, however, because I had missed it in London, despite buying tickets in advance and generally intending to go for weeks on end. This exhibition ends on 13th January 2008 so I just caught it.
Besides the Vermeers, there are some world-famous paintings – some Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp or Fabritius’s Goldfinch, for example – but the less familiar (but equally noteworthy) paintings are not ashamed in their company. I enjoyed them more because of the joy of discovering something beautiful for the first time. Who knew that paintings of church interiors or people skating on the ice could be so enchanting?
It is a compact museum. The basement contains the obligatory shop and cafe and there are just two floors of exhibitions. With so little space, every painting has to be a masterpiece and they don’t disappoint.
The museum doesn’t overwhelm. The modest scale of the rooms and the well-judged organisation of the paintings mean that you can go to the Mauritshuis and emerge a couple of hours later without feeling like you’ve run a cultural marathon (as at, say, the Louvre or the Met in New York). It’s art without the pain barrier.
Address: Korte Vijverberg 8, The Hague
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sundays and holidays 11am-5pm
Nearest airport: Rotterdam