- Type: Museums
NileGuide Expert Says:
The most extensive collection of Dutch artists in Amsterdam.
NileGuide Expert tip:
Most of the Rijksmuseum is currently closed for renovations, but key paintings, including Rembrandt's famous Nightwatch, are still on display.
Architect Petrus Josephus Hubertus Cuypers (1827-1921), the grandfather of modern Dutch architecture, designed the brick museum in a monumental Dutch neo-Renaissance, gabled style. Cuypers, a Catholic, slipped in more than a dab of neo-Gothic, too, causing the country's thoroughly Protestant King William III to scorn "that cathedral." The building opened in 1885 to a less-than-enthusiastic public reception. Since then, much has been added to the building and the collection.
The Rijksmuseum contains the world's largest collection of paintings by the Dutch masters, including the most famous of all, a single work that all but defines the Golden Age. The painting is Rembrandt's The Shooting Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, 1642, better known as The Night Watch. The scene it so dramatically depicts is surely alien to most of the people who flock to see it: gaily uniformed, but not exactly warrior-looking militiamen checking their weapons and accoutrements before moving out on patrol. Captain Cocq (once described as the stupidest man in the city, whose house on Singelgracht still stands), Lieutenant van Ruytenburch, the troopers, and observers (including Rembrandt himself) gaze down at us along the corridor of time, and we're left wondering what's going on underneath the paint, inside their minds. One sentiment might be irritation with this upstart artist, who painted some of their faces in profile or partly hidden, yet charged the full-face fee per man -- the militiamen hated the artistic freedom Rembrandt had exercised on their group portrait. In 1975, this masterpiece was restored after having been attacked and slashed.
Van Ruisdael, van Heemskerck, Frans Hals, Paulus Potter, Jan Steen, Vermeer, de Hooch, Terborch, and Gerard Dou are other artists represented at the Rijksmuseum. The range is impressive -- individual portraits, guild paintings, landscapes, seascapes, domestic scenes, medieval religious subjects, allegories, and the incredible (and nearly photographic) Dutch still lifes. In addition, the museum exhibits fine pieces of antique Delftware and silver.
Two rare furnished 17th-century dollhouses should be a highlight for children, by bringing the Dutch Golden Age to life for them in a way no amount of "real" stuff could. The dollhouses' former owners commissioned craftsmen to copy objects and ornaments, and the contents are exactly as they were in those days, only in miniature. Tiny seashells occupy a display cabinet. The tapestry room walls are covered with silk, the ceiling and mantelpiece are painstakingly painted, and Italian marble paves the hall floor. Silver spoons rest on the dining table and the family initials are embroidered on the napkins. Look carefully, and you'll even see pins stuck in pincushions.
In the Rijksmuseum Garden, breathe scented air and view interesting sculptural elements and other fragments from old buildings.
The Rijksmuseum also has a small gallery at Schiphol Airport.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Very Highly Recommended 2009
- Very Highly Recommended 2010