We love the Netherlands, it is a fact. When my wife heard about the Frick Collection in the Mauritshuis, we booked 2 nights in a tiny downtown hotel in The Hague – excellent price per quality ratio.
Having been in the seat of the government twice before, we first thought that 2 nights would be too much. But we had a great surprise in store.
Of course, our first visit was the Royal Picture Gallery, the Mauritshuis. Friday lunchtime, there were no crowds; however, the Frick Collection was beyond our expectations. In New York, it occupies a huge "palace”, in The Hague, it is in a bit more than one and a half rooms.
But the history of the Frick family was worth learning. Henry Frick lived the American dream. At the age of 22, he started to produce coke (heated coal) and became a millionaire within 8 years. During a later strike in his company, he hired a small army to break it down. Frick was shot by a Russian anarchist, but survived. With his wife, he regularly visited Europe, and the London Wallace Collection had a great impression on him. He started to collect art. In 1912, they had tickets for the Titanic on their return from the Old Continent, but his wife sprained her ankle, "forcing” them to postpone the journey.
Once in the Mauritshuis, you can not miss Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring (the story of which was made into a Luxembourgish film co-production), Rembrandt and Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson, Frans Hals, and ... and the building itself. It was William I, the first Dutch king, first Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who established this museum. He partially used the collection of his father, Stadtholder William V of Oranje. Look at Luxembourg after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 - William I got the Grand Duchy, elevated to this rank by Congress, as his personal property. He hardly visited us, only collected taxes here. "Suppressor” here, art sponsor, from this money, there!
In the Hall of Knights and the Parliament, we learnt some more about William II, son of the tax collector. His statue, a COPY of the one on the Knuedler, is standing on the Buitenhof.
To complete the 75–year Dutch period, we visited the museum exhibition "Escher in the Palace”. Who is Escher and what is the Palace? The latter was the home of Queen Emma of William III, who lived there with Wilhelmina after the death of the King. The King–Grand Duke, with whom the Nassau-Orange family died out in Luxembourg. This palace is the only one that can be entirely visited. Maurits C. Escher? A great artist from the town, though I knew only one of his creations – but had never heard his name before. He was the master of optical illusion. Bored in childhood, repeating first class in the gymnasium (school), failing the final exam – he was inside the adventurous mind of a teenager.
Despite some stormy wind and heavy rain, we made some delightful discoveries in the city. Berlage, whom we already discovered in Amsterdam, where we learnt that the last post office in the Netherlands closed in 2011. We saw the original staircases in Berlage’s de Bijenkorf, the Dutch department store and the "memorial” display reading that Ms. Peek had laid the first stone of the first Peek & Cloppenburg in the main shopping street. The great philosopher, Spinoza was a citizen of The Hague. The US Embassy building is the work of the Hungarian-American "chair designer”, Marcel Breuer, and the Passage was built in the same period (mid-19th century) like those in Brussels and Milan.
The city is dotted with intimate cafés and restaurants; elegant shops often reserve their original interior. The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government and the Parliament’s 2 two chambers, is definitely a place to visit.