The Mauritshuis in The Hague has acquired a flower cartouche by the Antwerp artist Daniel Seghers (1590-1661). At the center of the composition is a portrait bust of the poet, diplomat and scholar Constantijn Huygens. The painting had been off the radar since 1828, but it recently resurfaced in a private collection. The new acquisition, which has been restored, is now on display in the museum. The painting was acquired with support from the BankGiro Loterij and Mr H.B. van der Ven.
The new acquisition, Bust of Constantijn Huygens Surrounded by a Garland of Flowers (1644), is a painting with a fascinating story. Huygens received the work as a gift from the artist himself. Huygens, who was secretary to three consecutive stadholders, played an essential role in building the royal art collections in The Hague and maintained friendly contact with Seghers.
This painting hung in the Huygenshuis - nearby the Mauritshuis on the Plein in The Hague - for many years, even until long after Huygens’ death, together with another donated work (Portrait of Stadholder-King William III (1650-1702) Surrounded by a Garland of Flowers). In 1828 the flower cartouche with the portrait of Huygens was bought at an auction by Jonkheer Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle (1782-1846), the first director of the Mauritshuis, who acquired paintings for his own collection as well as for the museum. The location of the painting was unknown for much of the twentieth century.
Daniel Seghers & Jan Cossiers, Bust of Constantijn Huygens Surrounded by a Garland of Flowers (1596-1687), 1644, Copper, 86 x 63 cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague
The Mauritshuis already owned two works by Seghers, including Portrait of Stadholder-King William III (1650-1702) Surrounded by a Garland of Flowers, one of the two flower cartouches donated to Huygens by the painter. The other work was considered lost until it recently resurfaced in a private collection. The Mauritshuis was able to identify the work by studying relevant documentation. The new acquisition was painted on a large and fragile copper plate. The painting was restored in the Mauritshuis’s conservation studio, where old layers of varnish were removed.
Mauritshuis, The Hague © Ivo Hoekstra
The bright colours of the flowers have now been restored to their former glory. As was common for Seghers’s cartouches, the painted scene in the centre, in this case a grisaille, was executed by another Flemish artist. The portrait bust of Huygens was painted by the Antwerp painter, Jan Cossiers (1600-1671), which is confirmed by contemporary documentation.
In its place
The Mauritshuis already features several paintings of Constantijn Huygens and his family. In 2014 the cartouche with the portrait of William III was built in as an overdoor in Room 8. There are two other depictions of Constantijn Huygens in this room: Adriaen Hanneman’s well-known portrait of Huygens with his children, a large chimney-piece that had also come from the Huygenshuis, and Jacob van Campen’s double portrait of Constantijn and Suzanna. This room provides visitors with an introduction to Constantijn Huygens and his family, the former neighbours of the Mauritshuis. Coincidentally, the space above the door to the hall has remained empty, and will in future be the perfect place for the new acquisition.