The city walls of Utrecht

An exhibition dedicated to views of Utrecht opens this week in The Hague: The city walls of Utrecht through the eyes of Herman Saftleven and Maite Meijlink is a temporary exhibition at the RKD highlighting exciting relationships between seventeenth-century drawings and photographs made in 2022.

Works on loan from Utrecht

Back in the seventeenth century Herman Saftleven (1609-1685) captured Utrecht’s city walls in a series of beautiful drawings and paintings. More than 150 of his drawings of the ramparts survive. A selection of these can be seen in the exhibition, courtesy of the Utrechts Archief, which kindly agreed to lend a number of drawings. The exhibition also includes copies of Saftleven’s city views made by later artists in the eighteenth century, when collectors were avidly buying topographical drawings.

Modern photographs

The Utrecht photographer Maite Meijlink (2001) was invited to make photographs, transposing Saftleven’s seventeenth-century drawings to Utrecht as it looks now. Meijlink is a third-year student in Image and Media Technology at Utrecht College of the Arts (HKU), specialising in film and photography. Taking inspiration from Saftleven’s drawings, she has created new images of the old city walls, or what remains of them. Her main aim was to capture the expression and mood of the original drawings. The exhibition at the RKD is the first time her work has been shown in public.

1. Herman Saftleven, The ‘defensive tower with tree’, c. 1663, collection Het Utrechts Archief
2. Maite Meijlink, Canal of Utrecht and Hoog Catharijne, 2022

Walking along Utrecht’s city walls

Interested in seeing more of Utrecht through the eyes of Herman Saftleven and Maite Meijlink? The RKD has recently published a small book Wandelen over de Utrechtse stadswal. Tekeningen van toen en foto’s van nu (Walking along Utrecht’s city walls. Drawings as it was then, and photographs from now). Curator Laurens Schoemaker has mapped out an art-historical walk around the centre of Utrecht based on a selection of twenty drawings by Saftleven and the same number of photographs by Meijlink.

The exhibition The city walls of Utrecht through the eyes of Herman Saftleven and Maite Meijlink runs until spring 2023, when the digital RKD Study on Herman Saftleven will be launched, providing a complete catalogue raisonné of Saftleven’s drawings of the city walls of Utrecht.

Image: Herman Saftleven, Utrecht from the west, 1648, collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam