‘The palazzo is imbued with Rembrandt’
As the Netherlands is celebrating 2019 in style as the year of Rembrandt, the Dutch pavilion in Milan during the Salone del Mobile will naturally do its bit. For the exposition titled ‘Masterly – The Dutch in Milano’, curator Nicole Uniquole inspired artisanal companies and designers to make a Rembrandt statement befitting of a museum. Notes lists her thoughts on the influence that the Dutch Master and the Dutch Golden Age had on contemporary design.

Masterly Dutch pavilion palazzo historical rooms, curated by Nicole Uniquole
Text Ingrid Beckers

Rembrandt statement

‘Rembrandt was a master of using light and shadows. The way he captures light in his paintings is magnificent and produces an exceptional level of liveliness in his pieces. This marks the 350-year anniversary of Rembrandt’s passing, which is why the Netherlands declared 2019 to be the year of Rembrandt. That is what makes the Dutch Master so relevant to the Dutch pavilion in the astounding Palazzo Francesco Turati during the Salone del Mobile.’

‘As the curator of Masterly – The Dutch in Milano, I inspired all the exhibitors to make their own Rembrandt statements. The Dutch companies, top designers, and design agencies instantly recognized the added value of an image presentation, starring our best painter ever, in a museum. The palazzo is imbued with Rembrandt.’

‘The most prominent recurring theme in the designs are the “Rembrandt colours” and his remarkable mastery of using light and darkness. I assigned a single Rembrandt piece to some designers to use as their starting point.’


Close-up of Italian craftwork at the palazzo.

Appreciation for handiwork

‘Inspiration for this exhibition was not just derived from Rembrandt’s art, as a number of beautiful objects from the Dutch Golden Age still inspire modern-day designers. The Golden Age was a high point for art, crafts, and trade. Artisanal traditions were at an unprecedented level, and people’s appreciation for handiwork was evident in the flourishing guilds. By stimulating the handiwork economy, the upper-middle class contributed to work with permanent value, including the art of painting, furniture-making, ceramics, and silver smiths.’

Believing in the value of master and apprentice

‘When we talk of maintaining all these wonderful artisanal techniques, the belief in the value of the master and apprentice still endures in Italy and guarantee consistency. In the Netherlands, we seemed to have briefly lost recognition for the importance of the work of technicians and craftspeople.’ ‘In the current revival of craftwork, the appreciation for hand-made and quality products is increasing dramatically in our country once again. It’s wonderful to see! Artisanal techniques, materials, and colours add an extra dimension to contemporary design. With the right boost, the crafts economy is undergoing a boom thanks to a new generation of creators. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. Renewing things does not always require reinventing the wheel; however, you must dare to and be able to look at things from a different perspective. Much innovation is actually derived from the past and as such the past can offer us perspectives in the present.’

Societal issues

‘Rembrandt painted in the style of his time and was known as being critical of society. Dutch Design also comes from a design philosophy based on current issues facing society. By designing in an investigative and critical way, modern design can provide the answers to a number of societal issues. As an example, sustainable design was the result of caring for the climate. Overconsumption and wastage are counteracted by the reuse of materials. An enduring factor is the willingness to bear responsibility for a number of the challenges of our time as both an artist and designer. This will only grow as the urgency to find solutions increases. A positive, critical attitude will ensure Dutch designers remain at the forefront. If Dutch designers have demonstrated one thing, it is that they have an infallible instinct for expressing the zeitgeist in a timeless and confronting way. Originality and resourcefulness are part of the fabric of the spirit of Dutch Design.’


Nicole Uniquole
Curator Masterly – The Dutch in Milano Photography Frieda Mellema Styling Selina Martin

The Salone del Mobile is the annual international design fair that Milan has hosted for more than 50 years. In doing so, the Salone sets the worldwide standard for exclusive designs and high-quality products. The Dutch Design pavilion is located in the Palazzo Francesco Turati representing the fourth time the palazzo has done so during the Salone del Mobile.
Notes-Masterly - Dutch-pavilion-logo.jpg

Dutch Design vs Made in Italy

‘Both Dutch Design and Made in Italy are renowned the world over. Both labels create expectations and offer guarantees. The bar is high, and everyone who is a part of either brand aspires to meet all the requirements. The difference is partially based on the approach and partially based on the aesthetics. Where Italian design draws from all artisanal resources, Dutch Design is characterized by sober, minimalistic aesthetics. In my view, Dutch Design is very focused on solving problems. Designers want to change the world for the better through designs that are well thought out. Without focusing on the differences, Milan is the place where these two styles meet.’

‘Designers want to change the world for the better through designs that are well thought out.’

Palazzo Francesco Turati

‘The Dutch pavilion was given a beautiful home in the restored historic spaces in the Palazzo Francesco Turati. Balance is extremely important here: which elements are centre stage and steal the show? Could it be the beautifully inlaid wooden floors, the marble doors, ornaments with gold lustre, or wall coverings made of velvet or silk? Or will the attention focus on new Dutch Design? From top to bottom, the palazzo showcases a formidable eye for detail and unconditional love for quality. Without one outdoing the other, the beautiful Italian craftwork forms an amazing backdrop for contemporary Dutch Design.’

Meeting and dialogue

‘A number of circumstances aligned to ensure the success of the Dutch pavilion in Milan, including our host, the beautiful palace, the exhibitors, the visitors, and my role as curator. Everything is designed to facilitate meeting and dialogue. Historical Dutch companies such as Royal Mosa and Royal Delft present themselves alongside inquisitive young students, which creates an exciting dynamic. In order to stand out in this Mecca of international design, joining forces is crucial. Together, we represent a strong brand: the Netherlands that is big and growing in the field of Dutch Design.’


Rembrandt van Rijn Museum Bredius Masterly The Hague.