gahetNA in the National Archives

Big Panorama Mesdag shows Mesdag’s smallest painting

Den Haag

Hendrik Willem Mesdag’s smallest painting, recently discovered in the National Archives, will be on display at Panorama Mesdag in The Hague from 17 July through 4 October 2015.

Panorama Mesdag is delighted that it can give this unique mini-painting, with a short romantic poem on the back, a place of honour in the exhibition titled “Mesdag Family Collection”. Here, it will be surrounded by other, very personal, works from the private collections of the descendants of the artist couple Mesdag – van Houten, which have been brought together in this special, one-time exhibition in the 2015 Mesdag Year.

Archives of Samuel van Houten

Mesdag is particularly well-known for his enormous, cylinder-shaped painting measuring 120 metres wide by 14 metres tall: Panorama Mesdag. But, as it now turns out, he was also able to paint at a smaller size. Last week saw the discovery in the National Archives of an as-yet unknown work by Mesdag: a beautiful water colour 5 cm x 3 cm created in 1854. What makes the painting even more special is the little poem on the back written by Mesdag for his fiancée Sientje van Houten. The work was found in the archives of Samuel van Houten, Sientje’s brother. A wonderful portrait of Samuel van Houten by Mesdag is also on view in the “Mesdag Family Collection” exhibition.

Apart from its size, the tiny Mesdag work is special also because it is an early riverscape that displays Mesdag’s characteristic rendering of sunlight falling on water. A precursor to his later work as a marine painter, the painting was made for Sientje, his bride-to-be.
De gedachten zijn aan geene wetten
onderworpen; daarom; denk aan den
maker dezes; zoo dikwijls gij dit blaadje
ter hand neemt.’
Gron: July 1854
H.W. Mesdag

2015 Mesdag Year

This year, The Hague is celebrating Mesdag’s 100-year-old cultural legacy. In the late 19th century, Mesdag put the city on the cultural map, both nationally and internationally. A number of museums and cultural institutions in The Hague are showcasing the many faces of this city’s icon with a range of exhibitions, symposia and events. More information is available on

For more information or visual materials, please contact Helma Doorman on
070-3106665 or at
Alternatively, you can contact Eva Whyte, Nationaal Archief, 06-55267977,

gahetNA is a website of the Society for the Nationaal Archief in cooperation with the Nationaal Archief and Spaarnestad Photo.
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