“High Society” – the phrase itself brings forth imagery of the well-to-do done up in their finery and on display. It is just such opulence that is profiled in the current exhibition on view at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum through 3 June. “High Society” offers a scintillating showing of more than thirty portraits from across the last four centuries that blend the splendor of the sitter with the sheer talent of the artist.

Portrait painting is one of the richest and oldest painterly traditions, but it was during the sixteenth century that the magnificence of such compositions began to take on prominence. Every aspect – from the delicate threads of a lace ruffle to the luminous strands of a pearl necklace – became a means for the artist to put his or her best talents on view, so these portraits become as much a statement for the artist as they were a statement piece for aristocratic collectors. Along these lines, the anchor for this exhibition are the pendant wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, which were painted by Rembrandt van Rijn and have just emerged from extensive restoration.

Visit the Rijksmuseum before 3 June and walk among the nobles of “High Society” – you’ll come away with an entirely new appreciation for the genre and its master artists. For more info, visit the exhibition website.


Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in this genre, be sure to check out the Powerful Portraits category of books on Musebooks, with selections on such artists as Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, Modigliani and more.