The girl looks pensively at the viewer, pen in hand, interrupting the letter she is writing at a desk. In the back right is an oval portrait on an easel, it shows her brother Willem Frederik, later Willem I, King of the Netherlands. The picture of Luise, Princess of Nassau and Orange, Duchess of Brunswick Lüneburg, and her brother was painted by her mother, Wilhelmine of Prussia, on a piece of ivory measuring just 6.4 by 6.2 centimeters and set in a gilded copper frame is. Wilhelmine thus shows herself to be a gifted artist, having already worked as a miniaturist in Berlin before her marriage in 1767. As such, she was once portrayed by Rosina de Gasc. The described double portrait of princess and prince comes from the collection of miniature paintings from the Royal Collections of the Netherlands in The Hague, comprising more than 750 objects. It can be seen for the first time in Germany along with more than 60 other top works in the “Design & Dynastie” exhibition in Fulda.
Her husband, the hereditary governor of the Netherlands, Prince Willem V, had decorated his private rooms with the most beautiful miniature portraits. He was so fond of them that when he fled the anti-Orangist riots of the so-called “Patriots” he took them into exile, first to England and then to Oranienstein, where he died in 1806. He bequeathed his collection to his son, who later became King Willem I.
The Orangers were eager collectors of these little treasures. So they could always have their loved ones with them or at least nearby. “The miniature collection is the largest in the Netherlands and one of the most important in the world,” says Claudia Hörster, director of the Royal Collections in The Hague. These have emerged from the official collections of the Republic up to 1795 and the private collections since King Willem I. A part, which was nationalized after the abdication of the governor in 1795, went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Queen Sophie, the first wife of King Willem III, and her son, Prince Alexander, were the most passionate collectors, says Hörster. They actively shopped and commissioned works. Later rulers managed the legacy and with the advent of photography the era of miniature painting ended.
In the circle of the great of this earth
Princes liked to show the greats of this world, mostly in a decorative frame – so you could present yourself with other nobles on an equal footing. Miniature portraits were often diplomatic gifts or used to arrange marriages. Queen Sophie, on the other hand, collected them as works of art beyond the family character. Later works were executed in enamel, such as the portrait of Princess Wilhelmina (1880-1962) at only 2.2 by 2.1 centimeters. Today, this art form is all but extinct.