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Old and new

Jacopo TintorettoThe Kröller-Müller Museum shows more than just modern and contemporary art. There is also a group of old paintings and sculptures, a selection of which are constantly on display. Some of these pieces are even worth going out of your way to see, such as the depictions of Venus with Amor by Lucas Cranach de Oude and Hans Baldung Grien or the portrait of Gertraude von Leutz by Barthel Bruyn de Oude. Recently we have added a ‘new’ major piece: the portrait of a young man, dating from 1547, by the renowned Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594). This painting has already been in the possession of Helene Kröller-Müller since 1921, but it was overlooked, obscured as it was beneath layers of old varnish.
In 2006 the painting was restored in the J. Paul Getty Museum – a highly unusual and greatly appreciated form of sponsoring by a fellow institution – and with spectacular results. The painting proved to be very well preserved and now, once again, it depicts the proud young man, who, in June 1547, chose to have his portrait painted in his lynx-trimmed coat and elegant gloves. The portrait shows how the relatively young Tintoretto is already starting to approach the level of Titian.
The rebirth of this painting has not gone unnoticed in the world, for it has only briefly graced our walls since its return from Los Angeles. At this moment (until August 16th 2009) it is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as part of an exhibition devoted to Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. I anticipate that the painting will hang on our walls again from September.
The old art in our collection, in the words of Helene, serves to ‘substantiate the right of the new’. She believed it necessary to display old and new works of art together in order to draw attention to the meaning of the individual work, regardless of its age or the context in which it was created, and in order to remove preconceptions and obstacles to appreciating and enjoying the art of the present. And for exactly the same reason, the Kröller-Müller Museum still displays old and new art together: to build bridges, promote understanding, arrive at new insights or simply to be surprised.

Evert van Straaten
July 2009