Master's work of art

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Never mind the living Dutch masters here at Spruce Meadows, Rembrandt van Rijn has lent his own hand to a week's worth of showmanship at the famed equine facility.

The celebrated painter is stealing some of his countrymen's thunder with an exhibit of his artworks in the Horizons Pavilion.

As part of a week-long salute to Holland at the Masters, Rembrandt is being honoured on his 400th birthday -- and in fitting fashion, said exhibits manager Kim Randall.

"This is a really impressive collection from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam," said Randall, who has lent authenticity to the exhibit by dressing local actors in 17th century Dutch costumes to help educate visitors.

"Anybody in the art community or who's an antique collector would be in awe of the pieces here."

The exhibit, highlighted by more than a dozen Rembrandt reproductions, features scores of items from Dutchman Alfred Balm's massive private collection.

Most of the items on display are Dutch and date back to the 17th century, said the proud collector.

"In those days during the 100 years of the Golden Age of Holland, Europe was basically the centre of the world, and that little country of Holland was the mightiest power of the world," Balm said.

The exhibit's piece de resistance is The Night Watch replica, a reproduction of a famed Rembrandt masterpiece stolen from Holland by the Germans during the Second World War.

The reproduction was commissioned by the Dutch government to fool the invading Germans into believing it was the original painting -- and it worked.

While The Night Watch replica is a Balm favourite, he also takes a shine to many other items of the collection, including an original children's sleigh crafted by another Dutch artist, Melchior de Hondecoeter.

Among the collection's other valued pieces are Dutch furniture, clocks, coins, vases, pistols and original items depicted by Rembrandt in his paintings.

And since the exhibit -- sponsored by investment fund Emergo Canada Ltd. -- is part of a horse show, saddles and stirrups dating back 400 years are among the admired antiques.

"It's a first step to bring the collection here," Balm said. "We're going to do this every year and bring it to a museum level."


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