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Stories from the Archives

In addition to a valuable art collection, the Museum Mayer van den Bergh houses an extensive historical archive. The core of this was bequeathed by Henriette Mayer van den Bergh, the museum's founder. The archive contains a wealth of information about the works of art in the collection, the foundation of the museum, and the eventful lives of Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, his mother Henriette, and the family.

In 2021-2022, the entire museum archive has been digitised and made available online. The accompanying research project provides a wealth of stories and sheds new light on the museum and its founders. In this web dossier, we recount some of these stories.


The search for Bruegel

Over the course of his life, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh collected no fewer than seven paintings and thirty engravings from the Bruegel family. As a result, he played an important role in the revaluation of these artists at the end of the 19th century. How did he come across these works? What did he want or not want in his collection?

Mail from all over Europe

Although Fritz Mayer van den Bergh was primarily interested in Flemish and Dutch art, he and his mother Henriette were in contact with art experts all over Western Europe. As a result, their letters also ended up in museums and archives outside of Flanders.

The collector and his experts

Collecting art is not a one-man job; Fritz Mayer van den Bergh had a large network of dealers, collectors and art historians who helped him put together his collection and learn more about works of art.

Figures from the past

Fritz Mayer van den Bergh had a special interest in portraits and collected more than fifty of them. The museum archives give us an idea of where his interest in portraiture came from.

Henriette's vision

What was Henriette's role in the creation of the Museum Mayer van den Bergh? And how was she viewed as a female museum founder?

An exclusive museum visit

A museum visit at that time was very different from today: visitors entered the museum through Henriette's own home and received a private tour. Letters and photographs from the archives offer a picture of the museum visit during Henriette’s time.

Blog 7 - Portret van een dame

Iconic Italians in ink

The part of the Mayer van den Bergh collection that is perhaps least well represented in today's museum galleries are the drawings. There are conservatorial reasons for this. At the same time, it is quite unfortunate, because in Fritz's collection, art on paper plays an important role.

Blog 8 - foto

Masterpieces in prime condition: the Mayer van den Berghs and their art conservators

A large art collection also means a great responsibility. The archives of the Mayer van den Berghs show that Fritz and Henriëtte took the conservation of their collection extremely seriously. What did a proper restoration mean to them? How did they choose their select circle of conservators? What was it like dealing with them?

Helpende handen

Helping hands

In TV shows like The Highest Bid and Four Rooms, buying and selling works of art seems easier than ever. In the time of Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, things were a little different. How did Fritz still manage to build such an impressive collection, with work from all over Europe? And who helped him do that?