Armchair Art: A Virtual Tour of the Mauritshuis, in The Hague

By Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier
July 21, 2021 Updated: July 21, 2021

With much of Europe gradually opening up after months of varying levels of lockdown, many of us may not be comfortable traveling across the Atlantic just yet.

It’s not the same, but in these unprecedented times, we can take solace in online art offerings. One great choice for seeing a world-renowned European collection is at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, in The Hague, Netherlands. 

If you’ve never heard of the Mauritshuis before, you would certainly know of its most celebrated painting. Here’s a clue: “Most people know us by that one painting by Johannes Vermeer,” Mauritshuis director Martine Gosselink says on the virtual tour. That painting is “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” That painting, along with 35 other paintings from the museum’s collection, can all be enjoyed in an online tour.   

Late last year, the Mauritshuis became the first museum in the world to fully digitize its entire collection in gigapixel format, which, according to the press release, means that each image is 1,000 megapixels. That’s more than 100 times the size of images on your smartphone. 

On the Mauritshuis website, Gosselink warmly introduces the museum tour with a brief history of the museum, which is located in a former 17th-century city palace built by the governor of Dutch Brazil. 

The Dutch masters, of course, form the core of the Mauritshuis’s collection, in particular those of the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age. Three Vermeers and four Rembrandts are in the collection. 

Mauritshuis
The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, in The Hague, Netherlands, was once a city palace. Online visitors can enjoy a virtual tour of the collection in all its glory. (Ronald Tilleman/Mauritshuis, The Hague)
Mauritshuis,
Pictured in the center is one of the many masterpieces in the Mauritshuis Collection: “The Bull,” 1647, by Paulus Potter. Potter rendered his bull in a huge scale and in minute detail. (Ronald Tilleman/Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Online visitors can enjoy a virtual wandering through the stunning interiors while viewing each artwork through a number of different interactive tools. For example, in her introductory talk, Gosselink shows us a summary of the museum’s masterpieces. In one Rembrandt painting, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” we can see a lively, young Rembrandt studying in an anatomy class. Then in one of his last self-portraits, we can see him as an old man. 

Or visitors can opt to explore the museum on their own. For instance, clicking on Vermeer’s painting “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” you can opt to hear an audio about the work, then choose to see specific details of the painting with an explanation of how Vermeer painted the girl, and then you can home in on details in either the normal painting view or an infrared version. 

All these options are fascinating, yet they’re nothing compared to seeing the paint on canvas in person. But the tour is certainly a brilliant way to see a master collection and appreciate the great artistry involved both in creating and caring for these great works.

To take a virtual tour of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, visit Mauritshuis.nl

Lorraine Ferrier
Lorraine Ferrier