Spiegelwand gouverneursProvince House, Maastricht 2011
Sometimes a minor change is all it takes to get spectacular results. This reception hall, located next to the offices of the Governor and the Representatives of the Dutch province of Limburg, sees many visitors, so it's important that it presents the right image. In its old configuration, however, it somehow didn’t quite hit the mark. The portraits of former Governors were spread all over the large hall. Too many different shapes and textures, including pot plants, created an untidy picture.
The client, Ad Himmelreich, the curator of the provincial government’s art collection, came up with the idea of grouping all the portraits on a single end wall of the hall. Maurice Mentjens explains: "Various proposals were looked at and elaborated for this wall. The proposal which most captured the imagination involved installing a huge mirrored wall, which makes it look as if the portraits are floating freely in space."
The wall displays the portraits of all the former Governors of Limburg from the very first Governor, Charles de Brouckère, who held office from 1815 to 1828, to Eduard Otto Joseph Maria, Baron van Hövell tot Westerflier, who held office from 1918 to 1936. The topmost row of portraits shows the Dutch kings William I, William II, and William III, and the Queen Regent Emma. Many of the 19th-century portraits are not of particularly good quality. "Because they are displayed so high up, their dubious artistic quality is less noticeable," says Mentjens. "This was a good way to solve the problem of the quality of the portraits. And grouping them in a strict grid like this on this huge mirrored wall creates a massive impact and a monumental character."
The portraits of later Governors are hung throughout the hall between the windows. On the wall opposite, there is a life-size portrait of Queen Juliana, the mother of the current Queen Beatrix. The wall behind this portrait is covered in felt in a lavish pattern reminiscent of heraldic ermine spots. The felt was made by the fabric designer Claudy Jongstra, a native of Limburg. She is also responsible for the three rough woollen rugs, with colour nuances which perfectly complement the patina of the old portraits.
The mirrored wall also serves to visually double the size of the hall and increase the amount of light, contributing significantly to the hall's appeal. In addition, particularly effective use has been made of the different levels of images created by the mirror. Visitors who stand in front of the portrait wall can see the stately Queen Juliana in the background, representing the fact that the monarch is the power behind the authority of the Governor.