5 Power Women, 5 Queens in one Exhibition

Not one of the most known museums of the Netherlands. But the Museum Jan Cunen in Oss – close to the railway station – turned out to be quite a recommendation. No huge, but lovely, exhibitions, and a beautiful building also. The theme at the moment? Power women. Apart from exhibitions of photographer Micky Hoogendijk and sculptress Margot Homan, there is another very royal exhibition: “Vrouwen van Oranje – Portretten van vijf koninginnen” (Women of Orange – Portraits of five queens). The newly reopened museum shows the exhibitions from 1 October 2017 to 14 January 2018. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of royal portraits on display, as most interest in the media had gone to one single photo of Queen Máxima. The exhibition is however so much more – and don’t forget to look at the other exhibitions and the building. We arrived just after 11am, when they had just opened their doors and it was still pretty quiet inside the museum.

The exhibition gives a historical view of five generations of royal power women: the Queens Emma, Wilhelmina, Juliana, Beatrix and of course Máxima. Portraits and sculptures and a few other items show the styles of various artists. Queen Emma (1858-1934), born a Princess zu Waldeck und Pyrmont, married the much older King Willem III in 1879 and they produced a daughter, Wilhelmina, who would become the next queen. From 1890 to 1898 Emma was the regent for Wilhelmina. Apart from an umbrella and distinctive veil, some sculptures, drawings and paintings of the queen are shown.

There are also several paintings from Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962) and Queen Juliana (1909-2004), who both reigned the Netherlands for quite some years. They were being portrayed by artists like Thérèse Schwartze, Charlotte van Pallandt, Lizzy Ansingh, Sierk Schröder, Karel van Veen and Willy Sluyter.

An artist herself, Queen Beatrix (* 1938) was often portrayed by others, from Ans Markus and Marte Röling, to photographers like Anton Corbijn. You can see that she didn’t have herself portrayed necessarily in a traditional way, but also liked it to be different.

Of course the exhibition also shows portraits and photos of the present Queen Máxima (* 1971), including a photo taken by Erwin Olaf as a present for the 50th birthday of King Willem-Alexander. I was rather happy to see the inauguration dress of Quéen Máxima, and her clutch (!), were on display again. And I finally could have a look at the two portraits of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima by Urban Larsson, that I recently missed at an exhibition in Rotterdam, as I didn’t find the time going there.

As the museum says on its website the gallery of royal portraits shows how women presented themselves to onlookers throughout the years. It is also really nice to see that the tradition of having yourself painted hasn’t disappeared in royal circles yet. Although there are several pictures of Queen Máxima on the exhibition, she also had herself painted over the years. It would be nice if the next generation(s) would continue this tradition.

The only thing that I regretted, was that of course regularly there was glass in front of the portraits and items on display, so it wasn’t always easy to take good pictures. If you think you have had it all, at the end of your visit don’t miss the toilets where two glass portraits of Queen Máxima and Queen Beatrix are on display. And eat the special “Cunen bol”, that has a somewhat blurred portrait of Queen Beatrix on top. The Andy Warhol one, that you can also see in real at the exhibition.

In the museum shop they sell a few lovely postcards and a great catalogue of the exhibition (with a preface by royalty-expert Marc van der Linden), and a few books about artists you can see portraits of at the exhibition.

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