The day started off misty and ended up hazy. Although I suspect that the haze is the physical manifestation of the stench of cow manure that is overwhelming the city today. It’s not a completely uncommon scent, but it seems particularly strong today, making it impossible to keep doors or windows open.
I went to the Catharijne Convent Museum today to see their new exhibit Thuis in de Bijbel (at home in the Bible) and considering the number of cows represented in many of the paintings, if they’d had a window open, it could have been a surround-smell experience. Actually, the cows were some of my favorite bits of many of the paintings. One painting, in particular, caught my eye. God verschijnt aan Abraham in Sichem (God appears to Abraham at Shechem) by Claes Moeyaert has some lovely big cows, but there’s also a man (wearing green, next to the man in red) directly behind Abraham who stood out to me. Sadly, I can’t find a version large enough to show why the figure drew my eye, but there was something in the depiction that looked so realistic and contemporary almost, more so than any of the other figures. And then the irreverent part of me kicked in and I found myself laughing as I realized it looked a bit like he was “photobombing” Abraham.
Ahem, anyway …
As soon as I walked outside after my tour through the museum, the smell hit me once again. The cool breeze was nice, as the museum had been quite warm, but the smell made me disinclined to linger along the Nieuwegracht. I did stop to take these photos, though, although the actual haze of the day isn’t as evident in the photos. But I still loved seeing the Domtoren rising up over the rooftops, a little soft around the edges, and one of the transepts of the cathedral looking large against the other buildings, but small next to the tower.
The other week, as part of the national Museum Weekend, we finally went to visit the Museum Catharijneconvent. From the museum’s website: “Originally built in the 16th century as a monastery for members of the Order of the Knights of St. John, it was named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The monastery’s infirmary eventually became Utrecht’s first teaching hospital while the Catharijneconvent was subsequently used for a wide variety of purposes.” It wasn’t until 1979 that it eventually became a museum, officially opened by Queen Juliana. The museum contains historical and art-historical exhibits, with pieces ranging from reliquaries to clothing to works of art dating from the medieval period to contemporary art. In fact, some of the contemporary pieces were quite impressive on their own.
I didn’t take photos inside, so all I’ve got are photos of the various parts of the interior of the convent grounds, which are quite beautiful and interesting on their own. If you enjoy religious art and can read Dutch, the actual museum is worth a visit. The information that goes with each piece is only in Dutch, so keep that in mind. If you’re interested from an art-historical perspective, rather than a purely religious perspective, it may seem to lack detail and information on the artistic aspect of the pieces. The information given tends to be specifically about the religious story/history being depicted. It’s still interesting and worth a visit, but if nothing else, I recommend a visit just to look around the central quad to admire the buildings, garden, and the general layout. All of that is open for view and doesn’t require a ticket. They also have an indoor/outdoor café, which might be a nice place to stop on a lovely spring/summer day.
In the meantime, here are somemany of the photos I took of the grounds. They maintain the older structures beautifully, but I like the way they add in some of the necessary modern additions, including the glass walkway. It serves a purpose, while not completely blocking the view of the old buildings.