Toespraak van Prins Maurits bij opening van tentoonstelling Rijksmuseum in São Paulo, Brazilië

12 december 2012

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1961, American President Kennedy made a state visit to France. After he arrived, he famously remarked: "I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it."

I have the honour and pleasure to accompany two women to Brazil. First of all, my lovely wife Marilène [applause] and secondly a woman who is one of the icons of the Rijksmuseum: Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer [applause]. This world-famous painting is currently on a grand international tour. After first visiting Shanghai to celebrate the opening of the China Art Museum in October, she is now attracting everybody's attention in your beautiful city of São Paulo. In February, Woman in Blue will travel to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. After that, it will be time for her to return home to be on time for the official opening of the Rijksmuseum. After 10 years of renovation, the completely renewed Rijksmuseum will open its doors again to the Dutch and international public on 13 April2013. In80 rooms, 8,000 objects will tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art, history and culture. The main focus of the presentation will be the 17th century, shown in no fewer than 30 rooms. The 17th century, as you probably know, was called the Golden Age because of the power and wealth the young Dutch republic amassed. At the centre of the 17th-century presentation is The Gallery of Honour, where the Rijksmuseum shows the masterpieces of the Golden Age. As you can imagine, Woman in Blue is one of the centrepieces, of course. Works of art of this quality very seldom travel anymore, so I am proud to be her chaperon.

But there is also another, more personal, reason that I am honoured to be here tonight. Brazil and Holland have ties that go back a very long time. We share a history together. During the Golden Age, one of my ancestors, Johan Maurits van Nassau, was governor of a large part of the Brazilian East coast from 1637 until 1644. Lured by the rich sugar plantations of the Portuguese, with whom the Dutch were then at war, the Dutch West India Company had conquered these regions in the early 17th century. My ancestor was sent to govern them. He built Mauritsstad (now part of Recife) and an impressive palace called Vrijburg. Nowadays, we tend to look at these early days of European colonialism with some reservations about how Europeans generally operated in the rest of the world. Johan Maurits, however, was an exceptional governor, who stands out for a genuine interest in Brazil and a will to turn it into a well-governed and prosperous region. He introduced some sort of parliament, most revolutionary in those days. He was a religious freethinker, tolerating religions other than Catholicism and Judaism in a colony called Nieuw-Holland. And his love and respect for Brazil and its people was also apparent in the fact that he organised expeditions to the surrounding countryside. Scientists searched for natural medicines: medicinal herbs and exotic plants. And last but not least, Johan Maurits brought painters with him who captured the wonderful Brazilian nature. Six of his paintings can be admired in the new Rijksmuseum after opening. Johan Maurits left Brazil in 1644, so he was here a relatively short time. I must say, it's very special to experience how well known he is here in Brazil, better than back home in the Netherlands.

You can imagine that I am very pleased and grateful to stand before you here tonight, accompanying two women in blue. I hereby open this special exhibition and would like to ask you to follow me to see Vermeer's masterpiece, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.