Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a dinner hosted by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 8 June 2022
I too would like to welcome you all to this iconic location in the heart of our capital.
The Rijksmuseum is a place where the history of the Netherlands comes to life.
That’s certainly true of this Gallery of Honour, with its many masterpieces.
But it’s also true of all the stunning artworks in all the galleries of this equally stunning building.
Together they tell glorious – and sometimes not-so-glorious – stories about our nation’s past.
About how the Netherlands came to be, and how it acquired great wealth.
About its periods of decline, as well.
About how the people of our country lived and worked.
About the Netherlands’ international role – in the worlds of shipping, trade and diplomacy.
And of course, we can also see a great range of financial and economic trends reflected in the works on display here.
After all, a work of art is always a reflection of the society in which it was made.
We can see that very clearly in two portraits from room 2.18, and I’d like to briefly draw your attention to them, if I may.
Here you see a father and son, the Bickers, whose portraits were painted in 1642 by Bartholomeus van der Helst.
They really are father and son, though they certainly don’t look it.
They could hardly be more different.
The father, dressed in black, is Andries Bicker.
He’s a moderate man, a respected politician and above all a successful businessman, who made his fortune in the international fur trade.
And then there’s the son, Gerard Bicker, the ultimate child of privilege, from his elegant gloves to his rather arrogant gaze.
One art historian wrote of him: ‘Wealth has been handed to Gerard on a plate’ and ‘His father’s merchant qualities were not in his genes’.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I was invited to attend this evening’s dinner, I immediately thought of these two wonderful portraits.
You see, for me they’ve always had a financial-economic connotation.
We need only glance at them to see the difference between an economy that’s fit and forward-looking, and one that’s resting on its laurels.
And so they perfectly highlight the crucial role of the European Central Bank and the vital contribution of the Governing Council’s work in keeping the European economy fit and forward-looking.
Thank you for all your hard work.
Thank you for coming to Amsterdam.
And I’m sure we can look forward to a marvellous evening in this special location.