There are three major facets to the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo collection. Here are a few highlights:
The van Otterloos began collecting 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings in the early 1990s and have about 70 now. A prized piece is Rembrandt’s “Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh,” which they purchased in 2005 for an undisclosed sum; it had sold for $28.7 million in 2000. The painting, created in 1632 when Rembrandt was 26, highlights the features of an aging woman’s face with remarkable delicacy.
Aelbert Cuyp’s “Orpheus Charming the Animals” hangs in a prominent spot at the MFA. The van Otterloos acquired the canvas, which dates to about 1640, in 1997. An idyllic waterfront scene featuring animals ranging from leopards to an elephant, it has been shown at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the National Gallery in London.
David Teniers the Younger painted “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” (above) in 1642. Depicting a bearded hermit being introduced to a young woman whose tail and clawed feet peep out below her dress, it sold at auction for $210,000 in 1995, a year before the van Otterloos purchased it for an undisclosed sum. Writing in the Globe in 2011, critic Sebastian Smee called the work “particularly gripping.”
Dutch furnishings from this era are hard to come by. In the catalog for the van Otterloos’ 2011 retrospective, “Golden,” dealer Loek van Aalst noted that houses built along canals at the time were small, leaving little space for tables and cabinets. Moreover, “an elaborately worked piece of furniture was very expensive — much more costly than an average painting.” The van Otterloos began purchasing 17th-century Dutch furnishings about a decade ago.
A large oak cupboard from about 1610-20, the lone piece of the van Otterloos’ furniture in the current MFA reinstallation, features intricately carved images on several panels.
There are not many folding chairs from this era remaining, probably because they were built with thin pieces of wood and are therefore easily damaged. One chair in the collection, made of walnut, dates to about 1650 (pictured). A similar model can be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Made of oak, a table from 1620-40 has leaves that can create almost a square surface. The table is less than 2 feet high, leading van Aalst to speculate that it likely would have been used to support something like the linen press the van Otterloos also own.
The van Otterloos’ 10,000-volume book collection, now in storage, includes monographs, catalogs, and rare books from the 17th century. The books were the collection of retired Yale University art professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, whose students included MFA curator Ronni Baer and Peter Sutton, the former MFA curator who helped the van Otterloos begin collecting Dutch and Flemish art. “My hat goes off to Eijk,” said Sutton. “It’s a very distinguished library.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect year for Rembrandt’s “Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh.” Rembrandt created the painting in 1632.