Speech by Minister Bussemaker at the official signing ceremony for the purchase of Rembrandt’s portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit

Minister Jet Bussemaker speeched at the official signing ceremony for the purchase of Rembrandt’s portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit in France on Monday 1 February 2016

Madame le ministre,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We hébben ze!
Nous les avons!
We have got them!

The Netherlands has bought Maerten, and France now has Oopjen. Together, we’ve got ‘The wedding portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit’.
And together we’re going to look after them.
A responsibility that has now bound our two nations in a form of wedlock, perhaps forever.
All in the best tradition of European partnership.

And that partnership is not the only first we’re celebrating here.
For the first time now, in their long history, Rembrandt’s most famous twin portraits are in public ownership.
And soon they will on permanent display in both our museums, for all to admire.
After so many years away, a highlight of Rembrandt’s oeuvre is coming home.
This makes me proud.

As their history shows, these works have the power to rouse our emotions. In évery respect.

First and foremost, that’s down to Rembrandt’s outstanding technique, which makes his paintings speak directly to us. That quality is no different with Maerten and Oopjen as with The Jewish Bride or the Portrait of Jan Six.

Annewies van Loon, who owned these paintings at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was so attached to them - legend has it - that she had them shipped out by barge from her Amsterdam canal house every time she stayed at her country retreat. And back again when she returned to the city.

And also the question of where these twin paintings belong, has repeatedly stirred up powerful feelings. When Van Loon’s descendants decided to sell them to the Rothschild family in eighteen hundred seventy seven, Dutch culture-lovers were outraged. It came at a moment when taking better care of our national art collection was becoming a political issue. And the sale was described as “Holland at its most narrow-minded”.

As it turns out, the most recent reactions in the run-up to today’s joint acquisition, marked the final chapter in that part of the paintings’ history.
Today I’m proud - not only that we’ve now successfully completed the purchase. But also that we’ve finalised the agreements on the works’ conservation, management and exhibition. All in a spirit of the utmost fraternity.
Proud, too, of the decision never to separate these two portraits.
The glove Maerten is holding as a symbol of fidelity – and perhaps Oopjen’s pregnant belly, as well – should serve as a constant reminder of that undertaking.
And proud of the strict conditions put in place for sharing the paintings.
The Rijksmuseum and the Louvre have together accepted the noble task of presenting them to the public, and ensuring that they remain in pristine condition for future generations.

Culture, as we experience today once again, brings different worlds together. But art and heritage also are expressions of our national and European identities.

These paintings shed light on the status of the wealthy Dutch bourgeoisie in the seventeenth century.
Light on the son of a very rich immigrant from Antwerp, tying the knot with a member of an old and respectable family of Holland.
Dressed flamboyantly – Ministre Pellerin already referred to it - in the latest French fashion. And portrayed from head to foot by an up-and-coming young painter, out to conquer the world.
Through art and heritage, we express who we are and where that possibly comes from. Our conduct, our values and what we stand for. And that is possibly more important now, than it ever has been.

I’m also pleased, therefore, that our museums have promised that  every young person in our countries, aged four to eighteen will have the chance to see Maerten and Oopjen face to face at least once in their lives. And that the Rijksmuseum, in particular, will be doing all it can to enrich the story these two paintings tell.
So that all of us, wherever we come from, can bond with them.