31 august till 4 December 2022

Constantijn Huygens. A Life in Letters

Location Huygens' Hofwijck en Huygens' Swaensteyn

In 2022, we will celebrate the completion of the online database containing the extensive correspondence of Constantijn Huygens. To add lustre to this occasion, the Voorburg museums Huygens’ Hofwijck and Huygens’ Swaensteyn are organising two exhibitions in collaboration with Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands and NL-Lab of the KNAW Humanities Cluster. From 31 August onwards, the extensive presentation ‘Constantijn Huygens. A Life in Letters’ and from 5 April 2022 ‘Constantijn Huygens. Scents and Images’.

A biographical polyptych

In the exhibition, each original letter will be presented in combination with one or more objects related to that letter. For example, a letter from Béatrix de Cusance, Duchess of Lorraine and close friend of Constantijn, is accompanied by her life-size portrait by Anthonie van Dijck and her preserved heart in a lead box. But we also see the portrait of Amalia that until recently still graced the roof of the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch, and hitherto unknown portraits of Constantijn and Christiaan Huygens. This combination of letters and accompanying objects creates a richly varied and fascinating picture of the life and work of Constantijn Huygens in forty windows.


During the research for the digitisation project, spectacular discoveries were made. Almost 700 previously unknown letters turned up, revealing new correspondents and unexpected aspects of Huygens. The only letter from Constantijn Huygens to Johan de Witt, for instance, which was recently discovered at the National Archives, will have its first appearance at the exhibition.


Constantijn Huygens. Fragrances and Images’ is dedicated to new perspectives and firsts on Constantijn Huygens. For instance, in collaboration with De Jonge Academie, the exhibition will highlight Constantijn’s hitherto almost unknown quality as a perfumer. One of the scents he designed was reconstructed on the basis of a recipe he made himself. In cooperation with the cosmetics company HUYGENS PARIS and the Swiss producer Givaudan, visitors will be able to smell the fragrance for themselves or buy a scented candle. The scent of the Golden Age.

Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Under the title Rietveld – Huygens Exchange. What has Huygens ever done for us? ten students from the Jewellery – Linking Bodies department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie will be examining the dark side of the era in which Huygens lived.  The ten art projects will be exhibited in Huygens’ Hofwijck. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book of the same name compiled by Ineke Huysman and Ad Leerintveld, guest curators of the exhibition. In the richly illustrated volume, more than 30 experts discuss the letters translated into contemporary Dutch and place them in their historical context. The publication is published by Uitgeverij Catullus and will be available from 2 April 2022 at the better bookstores.