Monthly Archives: April 2024

Frans Hals in Poland (NL Embassy in PL)

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam currently hosts an exhibition about the famed painter Frans Hals, a contemporary of Rembrandt, who was born in Antwerp but mostly worked in Haarlem. He is known especially for his portraits of groups and individuals, as well as for his recognisable technique. Several of his works were once part of Polish collections. The last king of Poland, for example, Stanisław August Poniatowski, owned portraits by Frans Hals. Poniatowski was an adamant art lover and collector: according to a catalogue from 1795, he owned nearly 2.500 paintings. This number included 184 Dutch and 143 Flemish works, mostly from the seventeenth century. The king owned pieces by famous artists like Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck, some of which were very expensive at the time. He also had at least two portraits by Hals (or his studio), one of which shows an unknown man. This work later passed to his mistress (and possibly wife) Elżbieta Grabowska née Szydłowska. Another portrait by Hals (or his studio), showing an unknown woman, was in the possession of the king’s nephew and national Polish hero, Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski.

Frans Hals (or studio), ‘Portraits of an unknown man and woman’, ca. 1658-1660.

The exhibition in the Rijksmuseum includes approximately fifty paintings from international collections. It is open until 9 June.

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 52.

Visiting a Polish School in Amsterdam

One of my favourite pastimes is to engage with younger generations about language and history. I could do so again yesterday, this time to talk about new research that I have only just completed, on Dutch-Polish bilingualism in the 17th century: who could speak Polish and Dutch at the time, where and why? My presentation included Dutch traders in Gdańsk, Polish students in Franeker and Leiden, and Jewish translators in Amsterdam. What made this event special was the fact that my audience itself was bilingual, as I was a guest at Fundacja Polskie Centrum Edukacji i Kultury Lokomotywa in Amsterdam, where I gave a talk about Dutch-Polish historical relations last year as well. Lokomotywa is a Saturday school for children of Polish descent (there are dozens of such schools in the Netherlands – I myself attended the Polish school in Goirle for many years). Talking to bilingual children about bilingualism: I was over the moon, and I think they liked it too, especially when we got to the quiz about old Polish and Dutch words!