A very small watercolour painting by ninteenth century Dutch painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag was recently discovered at the national archive in The Hague. An employee looking for a work to exhibit on the occasion of the artist’s date of death on 10 July found the 5 centimetre by 3 centimetre painting. On the back of the watercolour Mesdag wrote a poem for his then fiancee and later wife Sina van Houten, also a painter. The words of the poem read: “Thoughts are not subject to laws; therefore; think of the maker of this; as often as thou will take up this sheet. Gron[ingen], July 1854, H W Mesdag.”
Experts say it is one of the first ever Mesdags and the first with boats on it. And because the poem is signed, they know it’s the real deal. Born in Groningen, studied in Brussels and eventually moved to The Hague, Mesdag’s best know work is the Panorama Mesdag, a cylindrical painting (‘cyclorama’) more than 14 metres high and about 40 metres in diameter (120 metres in circumference) that he completed with his wife and some assistants.