Secrets of the Old Staircase Revealed

Art-historian Ada de Wit has managed what nobody else before her could: she has discovered the identity of the museum’s so-called ‘Old Dutch’ staircase. Her findings were published in the prestigious publication, The Burlington Magazine, in February of 2016.

Ada de Wit was struck by the beauty of this monumental example of interior art a few years ago when she was a temporary staff member in the museum’s Department of Collections and research.

All that was known about the staircase with its beautiful, exuberant carvings was that it originally came from a building on the Lange Vijverberg in The Hague and that it was given to the museum 1928. The architect Van der Steur even took account of its extraordinary dimensions when designing the museum’s new building.

 

Willem van Sundert, Staircase from a home in Vijverberg, The Hague, 1700, oak and limewood, donation C.W.F.P. Baron Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh 1928
Willem van Sundert, Staircase from a home in Vijverberg, The Hague, 1700, oak and limewood, donation C.W.F.P. Baron Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh 1928

Did you know

the patron Simon de Brienne paid 450 guilders for the carving of the panels of the staircase?

De Wit discovered that Simon de Brienne ordered the making of the staircase. As a typical ‘courtier’ - a member of the royal court - from the immediate circle of King William III, postmaster De Brienne was involved in several scandals at his court in London. He therefore decides to withdraw from court life. In May 1698 De Brienne buys the house on the Lange Vijverberg for 20.000 guilders and pays an additional 40.000 for renovations.

Willem van Sundert receives 450 guilders for the manufacturing of the wood panels. He makes these panels between 1699-1700. Simon Classon - a master painter - then covered them with oil primer.

The staircase does not have an equal in the Netherlands concerning the extent and the quality of the wood carving. For a long time it is thought the origins might be British: the type is similar to the English style between 1650-1680.

The complete article can be downloaded from The Burlington Magazine website.