Really? An entire museum dedicated to one (1) painting? How could such a thing warrant an entire afternoon in The Hague, I scoffed.
I have never been more wrong.
Panorama Mesdag is a magical, monumental painting of miraculous charm and kaleidoscoping beauty. And without a doubt, my new favorite artwork in the world.
The experience begins immediately. Ascending a darkened staircase you can almost feel a spark of magic in the air as you spiral upwards. Arriving upon the viewing platform, you realize that dark, tight, spiral staircase was nothing short of a time machine, transporting you to a windy bluff overlooking the beach in Den Haag. The year, 1881.
Commissioned in 1880, and painted by Hendrik Mesdag along with his wife Sina Van Hooten and local art school volunteers, this 360° panorama measures 45 feet tall, has a circumference just under 400 feet and captures the coastline and fishing village of Scheveningen as they appeared 132 years ago.
The subtle nuance of natural light electrifies the scene with real beach sand and dune plantings angling down steeply to the waterfront below. Fishing boats are pulled ashore as the treacherous North Sea churns ever on, I can hear the cry of a distant gull as it rises above the howling of a blustery wind.
A slight turn to the left reveals the waterfront promenade from which narrow cobble stone streets stretch out into the surrounding red roofed village. There are homes and shops, kids playing in the street and a church or two off in the distance giving comfort to the faithful.
As a misty rain threatens, I reach for my parasol and slowly realize that I have been living in this landscape for hours. That I actually was transported back in time and transformed by… a painting.
Next up: Keukenhof Gardens