We’re standing in what’s now the Music Room – but was originally the Koekkoek family’s parlour. The square piano from around 1830 and an early 19th century grand piano are part of the museum’s collection.
The painting “Souvenir de Clèves”, “Memory of Cleves”, shows the city skyline: Schwanenburg Castle, the two pointed towers of the monastic church – and the prominent white studio tower, the “Belvédère”, where Koekkoek himself had worked since 1843. In front of the Belvédère – that’s to the left of the tower from this point of view – there’s a slender poplar, which the painter himself had planted.
But people who are familiar with Cleves and look closely, will realise that Koekkoek has made a few changes to the cityscape. For example, seen from this point of view, the Belvédère should really be standing on the right, below Schwanenburg Castle.
The painting was quite well-known among visitors to Cleves. It was copied many times and only acquired its title at a later date. Cleves was a popular spa town, where wealthy visitors from elsewhere in Germany, from Belgium and from the Netherlands came to take the waters over the summer. And when they left, they liked to take the occasional souvenir back home with them.
The demand for Koekkoek’s paintings was obvious from the countless forgeries that circulated in the European art market. Take a look at your screen. In 1847, Koekkoek started adding a seal of authenticity on the back of his paintings.
The photograph shows such a personally signed certificate of authenticity. It provided reassurance for the buyers, who were paying a high price for the works – and still do.
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek spent the 28 most important years of his life as an artist in Cleves. In this room, you can see the first and last of his creative output. The painting between the windows was created when he was around 19 years of age. It shows a village scene from Zeeland in the Netherlands – his home country. The winter landscapes above the fireplace, and on the left of the wall with the windows, are from his best period, while the winter landscape to the right of the wall with the windows was one of his final works.
The imposing piano nobile of Koekkoek’s mansion ended with the parlour, where you are now. The following room was added later. These days, it’s devoted to the appeal of the landscape along the Rhine for Koekkoek and his contemporaries.