Masters of Morality

Wise lessons from the city palace

The Royal Palace was built as a city hall for Amsterdam and at the time its various rooms were the workrooms of lord mayors, councillors and judges. Paintings created by master artists hung in those offices. These chimney pieceswere not mere decoration. Every story – from the Bible or from Greek or Roman antiquity – presents a wise lesson on how a public official should conduct himself. In the exhibition Masters of Moralitywe bring these paintings and their moral lessons to life.

This is achieved by placing man-sized screens in an information display beside the originals. These beacons of light shine new light on the paintings – both literally as well as figuratively – to enhance them even further. Not only is the participant told what is there, but also why it’s hanging in this particular room, and the message it was intended to bring to people in the room. In the galleries between the rooms are interviews with experts with insight and experience who reflect on the questions posed by the four chimney pieces, based on their backgrounds.



Term: 16 april – 04 september
Year: 2022
Location: Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam

Photography: Mike Bink & Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam

Moving stories

For each of the 12 chimney pieces, stories were written that we tell through animation. You can see the paintings as never before, while you fly through them. The main characters come to life and the tiniest details are highlighted. The objective of all this is to have visitors look at the works more closely and understand the stories within the stationary paintings. 

Chimney information display

The animations beside the paintings are placed in a small information display that seems to float in the space. The furniture borrows style elements from the rooms of the Royal Palace, but abstracted in such a way that they stand out directly. The sacred dynamic backlight behind the screens reinforces this effect.

Food for thought

The wise lessons from the chimney artworks focus on life in the seventeenth century, but they also still give us plenty to think about. Twelve experts reflect on the stories in the chimney piece artworks from their own areas of expertise. They range from former Lord Mayor Job Cohen to UN Youth Representative Jahkini Bisselink.