Oranienbaum (Henriette and her sisters), 2012

Henriette and her Sisters (2012) is a work of art specially made by artist Barbara Broekman for the exhibition Dutch Design – House of Orange. It is an adaptation of a painting by Jan Mytens (1666), printed on a large canvas and ‘painted’ with trimmings from an old-fashioned haberdashery. Henriette is an ancestor of the Dutch Queen Beatrtix. Sitting third from the left, she is artfully draped in a beautiful shawl. The play of lines in her dress has been accentuated with velvet and satin bands in various colours; her hair has been adorned with embroidered flowers and a single loose ribbon. She is pictured here together with her sisters, all of them daughters of the influential Amalia van Solms, who strategically wed them all to members of German aristocracy.

By the time she was 5, Henriette had already been promised to an earl from Friesland. But when she is 17 she rebels against her parent’s wishes – extremely exceptional during this time – and refuses to marry the earl. When she later falls in love with a prince from Wales, her mother doesn’t consent to the marriage. Finally, mother and daughter agree to a marriage with the German prince Johan Georg. When Henriette marries he gives her a village, which she modernises. Near it she builds a castle: Oranienbaum. Partly because Henriette is richer than her husband, she is free to develop the castle and its surroundings according to her exact wishes.

Barbara Broekman, who in her work is often inspired by strong women, admires the head strong Henriette, who not only managed to shape her own life in a time when women were expected to listen to their parents and husbands, but also became an influential art patron, surrounding herself with beautiful art that was often made by her assignment.

Broekman often works with textiles. She spent weeks in her studio working on this piece where it lay spread out on top of a large table: ribbons and trimmings were carefully pinned on to see if they created the desired effect before being permanently fixed to the work. Broekman would often stand on a ladder in order to view the work from a distance. The elaborate decorations combined with the more muted feel of the original painting give the work contrast and tension. Creating this work of art was a slow process, which Broekman feels is a welcome contrast to the high paced activities that fill most of our lives.