All Things Dutch: Frick Family's Travels to the Netherlands and Acquisitions of Works by Rembrandt and Vermeer

From October 2013 through January 2014, one of Vermeer's most famous paintings, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was on view at The Frick Collection. That work, along with paintings by Rembrandt, Fabritius, and others, were on loan from the Mauritshuis in the Netherlands, which is currently undergoing renovation. To honor the occasion, the Archives Department of The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library prepared a selection of items documenting travels of the Frick family to the Netherlands, along with materials regarding Henry Clay Frick's acquisition of works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.

While it is not known for certain whether Henry Clay Frick ever visited the Mauritshuis, we do know that the Frick family visited Holland in 1896. Frick wrote of his intention to visit the country in a letter to Andrew Carnegie in July of that year.






Letter from Henry Clay Frick to Andrew Carnegie, July 13, 1896. Henry Clay Frick Papers, Series VIII: Letterpress Copybooks (Vol. 12, p. 138)

An itinerary in Mrs. Frick's hand places the family at the Hotel des Indes,The Hague from August 3rd through 7th that summer, in between stops in Spa and Ostend, Belgium.








Travel itinerary by Adelaide H.C. Frick, 1896. Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series: Travel

Almost forty years later, Helen Clay Frick, Mr. Frick's daughter, visited the Netherlands again, this time compiling a detailed scrapbook describing her trip. On September 15, 1932, she passed through Dordrecht, the subject of a Cuyp painting in her father's collection.




Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691), Dordrecht: Sunrise, c. 1650

After stopping in Rotterdam to visit the Bojmans Museum, Miss Frick continued through Delft on the way to The Hague, where she stayed at Hotel des Indes, the same hotel the family visited in 1896.






Travel scrapbook from a trip to France and the Netherlands, 1932. Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series: Travel

On September 16, 1932, Helen Clay Frick was personally conducted around the Mauritshuis by its Director, Wilhelm Martin, who shared details regarding the restoration of Dutch paintings. She also met Hans Schneider, Director of the Rijksbureau voor kunsthistorische en ikonographische documentatie, founded two years earlier by Hofstede de Groot.




Travel scrapbook from a trip to France and the Netherlands, 1932. Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series: Travel

Several works depicted in Miss Frick's scrapbook are currently on view at The Frick Collection, including Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Fabritius' The Goldfinch, seen here, and Steen's "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young," seen on the preceding page.






Travel scrapbook from a trip to France and the Netherlands, 1932. Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series: Travel

Miss Frick photographed the Hofvijver, a body of water which borders one side of the Mauritshuis (it would sit to the left of the buildings in the top photograph), as well as other sights in The Hague before leaving on September 17th for stops in Haarlem, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Middelburg.





Travel scrapbook from a trip to France and the Netherlands, 1932.  Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series: Travel

The Frick Collection contains exceptional Dutch works of its own, including three Vermeers and three Rembrandts, along with works by Hals, Cuyp, Hobbema, and Wouwerman. Henry Clay Frick's acquisition of Old Master paintings began with Rembrandt and ended with Vermeer. Frick acquired the Portrait of a Young Artist (now attributed to a follower of Rembrandt) through Arthur Tooth & Sons in 1899.




Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Follower of) (1606 - 1669), Portrait of a Young Artist, 1650s

Frick’s purchase of Portrait of a Young Artist ushered in a new phase of his collecting, which had previously focused on French academic and Barbizon painters. Just two years later, in 1901, Frick acquired Vermeer’s Girl Interrupted at Her Music






Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Girl Interrupted at Her Music, c. 1658-59

Both of these artists figured into later acquisitions (Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait and Polish Rider, 1906 and 1910, and Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl, 1911) culminating with Frick’s final purchase, Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid in 1919.



M. Knoedler & Co. invoice for Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait purchased by Henry Clay Frick on December 31, 1906 for $225,000. Bill Book No. 1, Henry Clay Frick Art Collection Files

M. Knoedler & Co. invoice for Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl purchased by Henry Clay Frick on November 13, 1911, for $225,000. Bill Book No. 1, Henry Clay Frick Art Collection Files

Of all the above acquisitions, only the final one, Mistress and Maid, was purchased while Frick lived at One East 70th Street, now home to The Frick Collection. Diaries maintained by Frick’s secretary at that house tell the story of Frick’s pursuit of the painting, which began in late February 1919.



New York household diary, February 27, 1919. One East 70th Street Papers, Series: Daily Life

One month later, the acquisition was still uncertain.






New York household diary, March 28, 1919. One East 70th Street Papers, Series: Daily Life

But within days, the Vermeer was offered for sale at 650,000 florins, or $263,000 (the diary entry incorrectly gives the amount at 650 florins).





New York household diary, March 31, 1919.  One East 70th Street Papers, Series: Daily Life

By August, Frick owned the painting. When it arrived in the United States, Frick brought it to his summer house in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, so that he could enjoy it until the family returned to New York in the fall.




New York household diary, August 13, 1919. One East 70th Street Papers, Series: Daily Life

During Frick’s lifetime, the Rembrandt paintings were hung together on the north wall of the West Gallery.






West Gallery, Frick Residence, 1927

The three Vermeer paintings were hung in close proximity to one another along the same wall of the West Gallery.

Unfortunately, there were no photographs taken of the Frick Residence before Frick's death in 1919; however, these photographs taken in 1927 reflect the Frick residence as it was during his lifetime.


West Gallery, Frick Residence, 1927