While I was in Leiden recently, I took the train down to the Hague so that I could visit Mauritshuis, the Royal Picture Gallery. With paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and many others, this museum houses one of the great art collections in the world.

The building was originally a seventeenth-century palace, the home of Count Johan Maurits, who was governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil from 1636 to 1644. While he was governing the colony, he had this house built. When he returned to the Netherlands in 1644, he took up residence here (at least on a part-time basis).

After his death, the house passed on to his descendants. Eventually it became the property of the state. In 1822, the royal collection of paintings took up residence here, where they have hung ever since.

During my visit, one of the museum’s floors was closed to visitors, but the main masterpieces were all still on display. The price of admission also paid for an audio-tour, which was very informative. Usually, I get bored with such tours fairly quickly, but this one was interesting. I thought that all of the information it provided helped me appreciate the art more; I also liked that it gave you the option to learn more or move on after the initial discussion of each painting.