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A series of six early 18th-century wall paintings is returning to Kasteel het Nijenhuis in Heino/Wijhe after an 84-year absence. The huge canvases represent the myth of Dido and Aeneas and were painted by brothers Augustinus and Mattheus Terwesten. The Netherlands no longer has any other wall paintings by Mattheus Terwesten (a major artist in his own time). Museum de Fundatie has been able to purchase the series with the support of the Rembrandt Society and the BankGiro Lottery. From 24 February 2018, the first fully-restored canvas will be on show in Kasteel het Nijenhuis, together with one that has yet to be restored. Over the next few months, the rest of the series will be restored and gradually join the display at the castle.

Until 2016, the Terwesten series hung in a country house in Kent (England). The private owner asked Christie’s of London to put it up for auction. Christie’s approached Museum de Fundatie because of an inscription on the backs of a number of the works. The inscription, in Dutch, reads ‘TERWESTEN geconserveerd door C.B. van Bohemen 1935 Den Haag Holland Afkomstig Kasteel Neijenhuis (Overijsel)’ (‘TERWESTEN conserved by C.B. van Bohemen 1935 The Hague Holland From Kasteel Het Nijenhuis (Overijssel)’.

Augustinus and Mattheus TerwestenAugustinus and Mattheus Terwesten, Dido on the Throne with Attendants, oil on canvas, 283 x 218.5 cm, Museum de Fundatie (acquired with financial support from the Rembrandt Association and the BankGiro Lottery), Zwolle and Heino/Wijhe.

Installation photo, Kasteel het NijenhuisInstallation photo, Kasteel het Nijenhuis. On the right-hand wall: Dido on the Throne with Attendants (following restoration) and Aeneas Kneeling with Attendants (prior to restoration). Table: Jan Fabre, Table for the Knights of Despair (RESISTANCE), 2006, blue enamelled float glass, collection Museum de Fundatie (acquired with financial support from the BankGiro Lottery), Zwolle and Heino/Wijhe.

The six ‘hangings’, as they are also known, hung in Kasteel het Nijenhuis until 1934. They feature in a provisional list of Dutch historic buildings drawn up in 1923 with the additional mention that they were ‘brought there from a house in The Hague’. When the contents of the castle were auctioned off in 1934, the series was described as ‘Kamerbeschildering door Aug. Terwesten, bestaande uit 6 paneelen met voorstellingen uit de geschiedenis van Aeneas en Dido’ (‘Room decoration by Aug. Terwesten, consisting of 6 panels with scenes from the story of Aeneas and Dido’). The works were therefore not made specifically for the castle. At that time, it was fairly usual periodically to move such paintings from one interior to another.

The paintings have been attributed to Mattheus Terwesten (1670-1757) and his elder brother Augustinus Terwesten (1649-1711) on the evidence of the signatures and stylistic features. The return of the set is a noteworthy event, since there are now no other such wall paintings by Mattheus Terwesten in the Netherlands.