Amsterdam Cromhouthuis: drawings by da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt

When wealthy business tycoon Carl Joseph Fodor died in 1860, he left his art collection to Amsterdam. Now a selection of absolute highlights from Fodor’s collection can be admired at a small Amsterdam canal-house. In the period house, visitors are treated to drawings by world-famous artist like da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt.

Drawing by Rubens for his “Garden of Love”

Guest curator Taco Dibbits, who is also one of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum’s head curators, selected twenty-five drawings from the Fodor collection. The collection consisted of painting, drawings and prints. It used to have its own museum along Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht. When it closed, the collection became part of the Amsterdam Museum.

Now the twenty-five drawings selected from 900 in this collection together form the exhibition “The Genius of Drawing”. Here are Mr. Dibbits’ favourites, which include studies and portraits by Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Hendrik Goltzius, Rembrandt van Rijn and other great names. Mr. Dibbits ensured visitors can learn more about many of the drawings, through a free audio-tour available at the entrance desk.

As works of art and especially drawings are easily damaged by light, the drawings are exhibited in small, closed rooms and under specific circumstances. Some drawings, like the series of portraits by Rembrandt, are also remarkably small.So one may have to wait a short time, before being able to admire really close-up.

Though most visitors will want to look at the drawing by da Vinci or studies by Rembrandt, I preferred two other drawings. Fodor, whose wealth came from coal, managed to buy nearly all studies Rubens made for his painting “The Garden of Love”. This is explained elsewhere in the museum; which actually is two museums in one canal house.

Salviati’s Lady with Mona-Lisa smile

I was bowled over by one of the drawings created by Rubens, showing a young man holding a woman. Her presence is only hinted at; ghost-like. This couple is in his painting “The Garden of Love”. No photo is able to render the delicacy and colours of this wonderful drawing correctly.

Another favourite which I will certainly revisit, was the drawing of a woman’s face. It is one of the few portraits which seem to have been intended as such. On first seeing it, I presumed it was the da Vinci, as it reminded me of one of his Leda-paintings. This drawing of a woman has a kind of Mona Lisa smile, but is by Salviati.

Not on show: da Vinci’s Leda

Being a period home, this museum has some wonderful rooms, though not much of the original interior was left. It is also one of my favourite places for a break. Its excellent museum café in the Cromhouthuis‘ basement, next to kitchens and original breakfast room, serves a selection of traditional cookies, drinks, sandwiches. No better place to lunch, than in the museum’s small but quiet garden on a summer-day.

During this small but wonderful exhibition, the museum organizes weekly drawing lessons, lectures, high teas and other activities. The lessons take place each Wednesday and Friday. The high teas only take place once a month and are usually fully booked well in advance, through the museum’s website.

Amsterdam Cromhouthuys (and Biblical Museum): The Genius of Drawing, can be visited till the 15th of October


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