Steengracht – The first Dutch illustrated museum catalogue


At the end of 2020, the RKD received a wonderful donation from the Mauritshuis: 250 nineteenth-century reproduction prints and drawings of paintings in the Mauritshuis collection. Their conservation and digitisation has been completed, research on these prints and drawings is in progress.


The donation included 90 design drawings and 97 line engravings of works of art in the Mauritshuis' collection. The prints were published in De voornaamste schilderijen van het Koninklijk Kabinet, te 's-Gravenhage, in omtrek gegraveerd, met derzelver beschrijving (1826-1830) [The principal paintings of the Royal Cabinet, at The Hague, engraved in outline, with their description], which was published on the initiative of Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle (1782-1846), the first director of the Mauritshuis. This museum catalogue is the first illustrated collection catalogue in the Northern Netherlands. A book publication on the genesis of this important catalogue is in preparation.

The first Dutch illustrated museum catalogue

By now, all prints and drawings donated to the RKD have been preserved and digitized. They are accessible in the RKDimages database and linked to the Mauritshuis paintings to which they relate. Further research is currently being conducted into the content and background of De voornaamste schilderijen van het Koninklijk Kabinet, into the artists involved in the creation of the illustrations and into the examples of foreign museum catalogues that inspired Johan Steengracht. The aim is an English-language publication, with the working title The first Dutch illustrated museum catalogue. The catalogue of Mauritshuis’ paintings (1826-1830) by Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle.


Leader of this research project is Yvonne Bleyerveld, Senior Curator Drawings and Prints at the RKD and Endowed Professor Art on Paper at Leiden University. Contributions are written by Quentin Buvelot, Senior Curator of the Mauritshuis, Lotje Dalmijn, who researched the Steengracht prints and drawings at the RKD under Yvonne Bleyerveld's supervision, and Ingrid Vermeulen, Associate Professor of Early Modern Art History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The richly illustrated publication, designed by Gert Jan Slagter, will be published in autumn 2024.


The conservation of the drawings and prints was co-funded by the Mauritshuis, Book & Wurm Foundation and the Friends of the RKD.


De voornaamste schilderijen van het Koninklijk Kabinet from 1826-1830 appeared in four volumes. Each volume describes 25 paintings from the collection, illustrated with a line engraving. Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle himself wrote the art-historical texts. The design drawings for the prints were made by Nicolaus Heideloff (1761-1837), then 'inspector' (deputy director) of the museum. The drawings were put into print by several engravers. The four volumes appeared in a Dutch and a French edition and could be bound in one binding.  

Based on Steengracht's selection, De voornaamste schilderijen van het Koninklijk Kabinet can answer the question of which works from the Mauritshuis' collection were considered as highlights in the early nineteenth century. The print series also provides insight into early nineteenth-century collection formation and the need at the time to raise the visibility of a museum collection, that of the Mauritshuis in particular. To this day, the print series and the catalogue texts are practically understudied. The planned publication intends to change that.

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