It's nightIn the Period Rooms at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the sun slowly sets. The light dies and darkness moves in. Stars twinkle in the night sky, a candle burns at a window and people prepare for the night ahead. Some reach for their pyjamas, pull on a nightcap and retire to bed, while others select their most glamorous glad rags and head off out into a night of wild revelling and music. The weirdest dream creatures – or are they musical instruments? – appear, the most fantastical stories are read: it is night in the Period Rooms.
Fairytales and legends
This presentation is all about night and what it means to different people. The Gemeentemuseum’s six Period Rooms are magically transformed into spaces illustrating six different aspects of the night. The show begins as darkness falls: the sun goes down, day gives way to night and stars appear in the sky. Children are tucked up in bed and the sound of a gentle lullaby fills the nursery. Later, the adults retire to bed, only to be troubled by dreams: weird creatures, irrational events and the unreal are the theme of this area. And night-time inevitably invites story-telling. The Japanese Room is the venue for haunting fairytales, legends and other bed-time stories.
But not everyone associates night with sleep: bands of night owls emerge from their stupor as the sun sets and fly off for a night of abandoned merriment. The frivolity and licentiousness of their nights is also evoked in the Period Rooms. But nothing lasts for ever. In the museum, as in life, every night draws to its end. After this journey through the various facets of the night, dawn finally breaks in the Gobelin Room. Daylight returns and the night is over.
The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has one of the most wide-ranging collections in the Netherlands and this unique presentation features an extraordinarily broad variety of objects, all of which have some association with night-time or nocturnal activities. They illustrate the various aspects and meanings of the night. Paintings, clothing, sculptures, musical instruments and centuries-old objects are all used to bring the theme to life: from a magnificent nineteenth-century four-poster bed right through to work by artist H.W. Mesdag (1831-1915). A particularly extraordinary feature of the exhibition is a display of the magical objects made by Hague artist Ber Mengels (1921-1995), which not only look like creatures from our wildest dreams but can also be used to make music.
The Period Rooms at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag are like nothing else in the Netherlands; Berlage included them in his designs for the museum right from the start and, despite their period furnishings and appearance, they form an integral part of the museum. They are used to display antique household objects and paintings from the museum’s collections in their original period context. But the rooms also provide a wonderful setting for unique presentations like the recent Ineke Hans’ Historic Interiors and Birdwatching exhibitions. Night in the Period Rooms is the next instalment in this series and, coming with an extensive package of educational activities, is also extremely suitable for children and school parties.