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Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg Opens Dutch and Flemish Paintings Exhibirtion

The Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg presents Story and Symbol: Dutch and Flemish Paintings from the Collection of Dr. Gordon and Adele Gilbert, on view September 17-December 4, 2011.

The more than 30 paintings in this exhibition are striking, but they are also rich in the history of sixteenth and seventeenth-century northern Europe. The works encompass biblical stories, mythological subjects, stunning portraits, scenes from everyday life, seascapes and landscapes, and still lifes.

The Gilberts, who have developed this exceptional collection over more than 30 years, were attracted to these paintings in part because so many explore biblical stories. These marvelous paintings also reveal cultures ascending, becoming more literate and interested in the arts, trying to establish a new Eden.

A number of the works celebrate the common pleasures of life—eating and drinking, sensuality, even the sheer beauty of objects. A warning, however, usually arises, telling us that these delights are transitory, just like life itself.

Many important artists are represented. They include Abraham Bloemaert, Paulus Potter, Michiel Jansz.van Mierevelt, Leonaert Bramer, Frans Francken the Younger, Frans Hals, Jan van Goyen, Jan Davidsz. de Heem (a brilliant Still Life with a Silver Pitcher), Melchior d’Hondecoeter, Karel van Mander, Aert van der Neer, Jan Steen, and Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet.

This collection has been a labor of love, a tribute to an extraordinary partnership. The Gilberts have shared in studying the works and the cultures that inspired them, as well as in selecting those to acquire. The MFA is deeply appreciative to them both for making this exhibition possible.

Image: Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt, Double Portrait of a Husband and Wife with Tulip, Bulb, and Shells (1609). Oil on panel. Collection of Dr. Gordon and Adele Gilbert.

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