The museum removed a bust of Johan Maurits from its foyer. A storm of opinions broke out on Twitter. The facts challenge visitors to make up their own minds.


In early 2018, a public debate around colonialism and heritage erupted after the Mauritshuis museum removed a replica bust of Johan Maurits from its foyer. The exhibition ‘Shifting Image – In Search of Johan Maurits’ examines the representation of Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), and his role in the Dutch colony in Brazil and the transatlantic slave trade in the 17th century.

Varied perspectives

With reference to works held by the museum that bears his name, contemporary writers reflect on Maurits and his history from different points of view. In new descriptions accompanying the objects in the exhibition, they consider the collection from new perspectives. Visitors see that there is no one single story to be told here.

Forming an opinion

A wall made up of dozens of Maurits busts overlaid with projections illustrates the recent furore. A house made of sugar refers to the museum’s unambiguous nickname, the ‘sugar palace’: it is said to have been built using the proceeds from plantations. A large projection wall presents biographical facts about Johan Maurits and his activities in Dutch Brazil. The wealth of facts and perspectives challenges visitors to form their own views.

Academic research project

This exhibition constitutes the start of the academic research project ‘Revisiting Dutch Brazil and Johan Maurits’. The museum will investigate the role Johan Maurits played in Dutch Brazil. Head of the research project is Dr. Erik Odegard.

“The Mauritshuis couldn’t have staged this exhibition at a better time.”

Lotfi El Hamidi, NRC — 3 April 2019


LOCATION: The Hague, the Netherland
TYPE: Exhibition
COLLABORATORS: OPERA Amsterdam, Mette Menting, Hans Wolff & Partners