Kamphuijsen regarded this work as one of his most notable paintings. In a letter of 13 January 1819 (in the Van der Willigen archive in the library of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) to Adriaen van der Willigen in Haarlem giving information for his biography in the Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, Kamphuijsen mentions among his cabinet paintings "een allegory of d[e] terugkomst en vereniging der Nederlandze scholen en kunststukken' (an allegory on the return and unification of Netherlandish schools and works of art), but this was not to be mentioned in his published biography. The picture was painted in response to a competition by the Fourth Class of Arts set in February 1817. The institute, founded in 1808 under King Louis Napoleon, awarded 300 guilders for the best specimen of "een allegorische voorstelling op de wedervereniging van den alom beroemden, zoo Vlaamschen als Hollandschen Kunstarbeid, tot eene en dezelfde Nederlandsche Kunstschool, onder de hooge bescherming van onzen zoo beminden als geëerbiedigden Koning" (an allegorical picture celebrating the reunion of the illustrious Flemish and Dutch art into one and the same Netherlandish school, under the high protection of our beloved and well respected King) (Algemene Konst en Letterbode, 1817, I, p.114). As a matter of fact the allegory of Kamphuijsen was not awarded by the panel of judges of the institute. Kamphuijsen, when executing this work, took into account the changed circumstances following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, by celebrating the return of works looted by the French and subsequently repatriated, most notably Paulus Potter's 'Young bull' in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. A reduced version of this Potter serves a the focus of the present picture. To its left a personification of Justice is standing, to its right a personification History is seated, holding a goose-quill in her hand. The books next to her include a volume of the jaarboeken van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, the official yearly reports of the Netherlands kingdom, and the Nassouwse Heldendaden, a book glorifying the House of Orange, the youngest scion of which, King William I, is presented in the portrait-medallion that serves as the shield of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Minerva is faced by Hercules, wearing a helmet decorated with a lion, holding several arrows that refer to the United Provinces of The Netherlands. Behind them is a woman who holds a banner inscribed Quatre-Bras, in reference to the battle of Quatre-Bras in the Southern Netherlands, fought on the 16 June 1815, when troops of William heroically resisted the French army and saved the southern provinces for The Netherlands. The theme of the reunion of the two schools of painting is expressed by a bust of both Rubens and Rembrandt on a pedestal surrounded by clouds. The united busts are graced by the protection of Peace holding a wreath of olive leaves in her left hand, while holding a cornucopia in her right. In the upper left corner floats a personification of Fame with banners inscribed Vlaamse school and Hollandse school.
Kamphuijsen's painting testifies to the high hopes for the arts in the first years of the newly found kingdom of the Northern and Southern Netherlands under the rule of King William I. It was hoped that the union of Flemish baroque and Dutch realism would prove fruitful for the artistic future of the young kingdom. This optimism was to be of short duration; it collapsed within a decade as a result of the Belgian rebellion.
See colour illustration