Prints of excellent typographic quality are the hallmark of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum’s wide collection, in which 16th century graphic art from the Northern and Southern Netherlands is exceptionally well represented. The collection includes many early prints that show hardly any fading at all and which maintain good contrast, both characteristics that determine the quality of a print.
The greater part of the collection of 16th century graphic art from the Northern and Southern Netherlands is based on the collections Dr A.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis and Dr J.C.J. Bierens de Haan. The selection of 5,400 prints that are on display are predominantly from the Bierens de Haan legacy. In his passion for collecting prints, he strove for the best possible typographic quality. These standards of quality became one of the main criteria of the museum’s purchasing policy for 16th century prints.
The collection bears testimony to the great influence exerted by the Renaissance movement, which began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe in the course of the 16th century. At that time, there were also many developments in printing techniques. A ‘modernization’ took place, from woodcuts to prints and from prints to etchings, each new technique offering new possibilities to graphic artists. The collection gives a good impression of the various techniques.
During the Renaissance, people’s renewed interest in classical antiquity also influenced the artists’ choice of subjects. That is why the collection includes prints featuring the human body, buildings, landscapes, portraits and ornaments by famous and less famous artists, among whom Lucas van Leyden, Maerten van Heemskerck, the families Galle and Sadeler, Jan Saenredam, Dirck Volckertsz. Coornhert, Hendrick Goltzius and Claes Jansz. Visscher. The diversity of great masters, subjects and techniques which are on display here gives an overwhelming impression of the number and variety of prints produced in the Netherlands in the course of the 16th century.