Dutch Treats


One of the Netherlands' oldest cities, Maastricht may be most famous for hosting the annual European Fine Art Fair (considered the best of its kind in the world) or, perhaps, for being the site where the euro was born, in 1992. But this compact metropolis of only 122,000 people is notable for much more than the international brigades who pass through it. Tucked into the Meuse River Valley, Maastricht is filled with superb art and antiques shops, not to mention cobblestoned streets, 17th-century mansions, and all the untrampled Europeanness sought by smart travelers. The place to start browsing is on the Left Bank, in the heart of the Old City, where sidewalk cafés, elegant squares, and Art Nouveau streetlamps call to mind a more famous city's Left Bank. And like Paris, Maastricht even has a Latin Quarter—a shopping hub in its own right—bordered by the rambling street of Saint Pieterstraat and encompassing O. L. Vrouweplein Square.

In this historic house on Saint Pieterstraat, you'll discover a worldly collection of curiosities reminiscent of the days when Dutch merchant ships set sail in search of treasures from the Orient. Khmer bronze bracelets ($555), ivory spoons from Africa ($800), old Chinese ivory combs with red velvet trim ($1,855), and ceremonial carved-wood daggers from Tibet ($500-$1,855) are displayed like sculpture. Other standouts include 19th-century rattan baskets woven in the Philippines ($250-$310) and a 17th-century Burmese wood Buddha ($8,365). At 21A St. Pieterstraat; 31-43/325-3801.

Across the street from Myrèse, Au Béguinage carries a similarly eclectic assortment of antiques. Representing local craftsmanship are vibrant, hand-painted Gouda pottery ($250-$620), ancient delft tiles ($50-$310), and pewter vases, cups, and bowls done in the Dutch Art Nouveau style ($250-$1,240). From farther afield come vintage Russian icons ($1,240-$2,480), a silver-plated Deco tea service from France ($2,480), and Chinese cloisonné teapots from the 19th century ($290). At 20 St. Pieterstraat; 31-43/325-7001.

This elegant old-world studio supplies a stylish international clientele with both antique and reproduction English and French furniture. On our visit we spotted an 18th-century Dutch oak cabinet ($8,670), an English oak cupboard from the same period ($8,670), and a selection of French crystal chandeliers from the 19th century ($2,480-$3,720). Toro also offers interior design services. At 34 St. Pieterstraat; 31-43/325-1557.

Philippe Kersten's gallery, also on Saint Pieterstraat, showcases exceptional Asian antiques and artworks. The terra-cottas from China—Tang horses, Han vessels ($6,200-$43,370)—are as fine as any found in Hong Kong. The Buddhist sculptures from Thailand and Burma ($5,000-$55,760) are fantastic, as is the 18th- and 19th-century Chinese elm and walnut furniture (armoires go for upwards of $7,400). Kersten's second shop, on the nearby Lenculenstraat, exhibits more Eastern treasures in a rambling 18th-century house with a lovely courtyard garden. At 2 St. Pieterstraat; 31-43/321-4961.

Luthier Martin Rijsemus crafts and repairs fine stringed instruments behind a big storefront window. Even if you're not a musician or a collector, stop by his charming workshop, which looks as if it could have come off some old Vermeer canvas. Rijsemus's handiwork is equally impressive: The violins in the upstairs showroom ($14,880-$19,830) are painstakingly built using the traditional method, from maple and spruce dried for at least 35 years, then inlaid with rosewood and ebony. Rijsemus stocks a few antique violins as well—Italian, English, and French instruments dating as far back as 1643. At 1 Witmakersstraat; 31-43/321-9159.

Given the traditionally catholic tastes of the Dutch, it's no surprise that a small city such as Maastricht would have an art house devoted solely to modernist and contemporary Russian works. Owned by Dutch art historian Berthy Quaedvlieg, the space presents pieces by mainly Russian artists who were active during the second half of the 20th century, before the fall of the Soviet Union. Luminous landscapes by Sergei Shablaven sell for between $10,000 and $49,600; the Boschlike portraits by Andrey Medwedev are priced at $6,200 to $31,000. Quaedvlieg is intimately familiar with her milieu and if she detects your enthusiasm, she'll spin fascinating yarns about some of the artists she carries. At 22A Hondstraat; 31-43/350-0380.

Lighting designer Spruyt bases his fantastical brass, copper, zinc, and steel pieces on natural forms. Among his more extravagant creations are chandeliers that resemble hanging vines, stellar constellations, even the solar system, complete with orbiting plan-ets ($1,675-$3,720). Also in stock is a more modest—and modestly priced—collection of small conical table lamps and spotlights, which go for $385 to $620. At 18 Kapoenstraat; 31-43/325-3045.

LEON SALET-ARTE MODA This gallery on the fashionable pedestrian strip of Stokstraat Quarter pays homage to Europe's glassmaking tradition. The exhibitions of modern vases and sculptures represent artists such as Neil Wilkin, who works with nature-inspired forms in crystal, and Melvin Anderson, an African-Dutch artisan whose blown-glass pieces incorporate the patterns of his heritage. Prices range from $2,480 to $12,400. At 7 Plankstraat; 31-43/321-0069.

Few galleries in Maastricht have amassed a more sophisticated collection of antiques than Röell, which occupies an 18th-century townhouse on Tongersestraat. The rooms are filled with exquisitely composed groupings of Asian artifacts as well as English and Dutch colonial furniture from the 17th to 19th centuries. A Baroque chinoiserie cabinet with mother-of-pearl inlay ($142,530), a Ceylonese ebony-and-jackwood cabinet ($16,100), and a carved ebony-and-silver table from the Bengal Coast ($59,500) recall the bygone trading empire of the Dutch East India Company. Other items are teak-and-rattan chairs ($1,860- $2,230), ivory walking sticks from Sri Lanka ($530), and Indonesian silk ikat wall hangings ($990). At 2 Tongersestraat; 31-43/327-0612.

Contemporary and modernist Dutch paintings are the focal point of this Bredestraat art house. Extremely fine canvases can be obtained here at relatively gentle prices compared with the offerings at some of the old-master dealers' galleries. Here notable works include Expressionist collages by Charles Popelier, which begin at about $3,700, as well as Hans Keuls's abstractions, which sell for between $1,200 and $7,500. At 4 Bredestraat; 31-43/325-5486.

Robert Noortman is the old-master dealer in Maastricht, if not the world. Cofounder of the city's art and antiques fair, Noortman keeps his collection in a regal 18th-century manor house on Vrijthof Square. If there's a Rembrandt or a Rubens to be had in Holland, he'll know about it. The gallery also features top-notch French Impressionist artworks, among them oils by Degas and Monet. Prices are, as you would expect, at the high end of the market. At 49 Vrijthof; 31-43/321-6745.

While the well-established gallerists are firmly rooted in the Old Town, art and design has begun to migrate to other neighborhoods, too. Across the Saint Servatius bridge, on the Meuse River's right bank, the Wyck Quarter is fast becoming a shopping district in its own right. On Rechtstraat, the area's main street, Stille is evocative of an old curio shop; it specializes in rare European prints, maps, and books from the 17th to 20th centuries. A science text from the 1600s by Francis Bacon with original engravings ($1,050) particularly intrigued us, as did a collection of 19th-century lithographs depicting Dutch landscapes ($250-$750). At 85 Rechtstraat; 31-43/321-9923.

Just down the street from Stille, Karavanserai brings together art and objects from all across Asia and Africa. The 19th-century painted chests hail from Tibet ($2,200), and the silver bracelets trace back to India and Afghanistan ($200- $6,200). One of the best groupings here is the various antique African masks ($4,960- $14,880). At 106 Rechtstraat; 31-43/326-0926.

Of the numerous knowledgeable dealers located on Rechtstraat, the most impressive is the Wim Reiff Gallery. On the walls hang blue-chip modernist and contemporary works by notable artists such as Mark Rothko, Anselm Kiefer, Paul Cézanne, and Gerhard Richter. Prices start at around $60,000. Paintings in the $25 million range regularly pass through Reiff's hands. At 43 Rechtstraat; 31-43/390-0721.

Where to Stay

Inside a converted 15th-century cloister in the center of town, the new Kruisherenhotel (31-43/329-2020; www.chateauhotels.nl) has 60 rooms showcasing superb contemporary design. The furnishings are by Alessi, Eames, and Marc Newson, with stunning light installations by German artist Ingo Maurer.

Where to Eat

Cafe Sjiek (13 St. Pieterstraat; 31-43/321-0158) is a local favorite for lunch, serving hearty Dutch fare like stewed pheasant with sauerkraut. For dinner, the Michelin-starred Toine Hermsen (2-4 St. Bernardusstraat; 31-43/325-8400) is the eponymous chef's ode to French cuisine. The braised lamb is divine.

Et Cetera

Friandises is Maastricht's famous chocolate shop, on Brugstraat in the Wyck Quarter. The truffles here are one of the few reasons to turn your attention from shopping. Next year's European Fine Art Fair, from March 10 to 19 (www.tefaf.com), will host some 200 dealers from around the world.