Rijksmuseum (31)

The Rijksmuseum, which is considered to be Amsterdam’s most important museum, changed locations many times before it arrived at its current site. 

This is the State Museum, the origins of which date back to 1798 and the times of the French occupation, when the museum was located in The Hague. It was later moved to one of the floors of the Royal Palace, in the Dam, where the city presented it with Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch, still one of the collection’s main attractions. It moved almost immediately to another palace in the centre although this site grew too small by 1874 and a building was therefore commissioned to house what was, by the late nineteenth century, a huge collection. 

The prestigious Pierre Cuypers was commissioned to design the Rijksmuseum building, which was his first project in the Dutch capital. Just looking at the magnificence of the work, is indeed a truly great start to a visit. 

Cuypers designed it in Renaissance style. The city’s Protestants, however, complained that the building was too influenced by Gothic, which was closely associated with Catholicism. The architect therefore introduced some changes. Cuypers used typical Dutch brick for the roof and the towers, and changed the stained glass windows, which were originally ogival, for finishes with semi-circular arches. 

You need not look very closely to realise it is a very similar building to the Station Central, which was later also designed by Cuypers. 

The building is richly decorated with iconography associated with the history of art and the history of the Netherlands. The south facade, for example, features mosaics representing the stories of the city’s heroes such as the poet Van den Vondel, Frederick Hendrick and Huygens. 

If you find the outside of the building striking, just wait to see inside. Indeed, the Museum has an impressive collection of painting, sculpture, decorative arts, Asian art and history of the Netherlands. 

Works from the fifteenth to the ninetieth centuries line the corridors, the halls and the galleries and provide an example of the artistic greatness that the country has always harvested. 

As it is a state museum, the key items are paintings from the Golden Century of the Netherlands. The Jewish Bride, by Rembrandt, The Jolly Drinker, by Frans Haals, and Vermeer’s Milkmaid are just some of the hundreds of works at which you may wonder.

After the long journey through the museum, a walk around another of its attractions, its garden, is highly recommendable. The fountains and arbours are well worth the visit and do not forget to take a look at the collection of statues, a variety of old Dutch components from all over the country, which provide it with a strangely special atmosphere. 

Then, after hours touring the museum’s 200 rooms, you will no doubt be thankful for a bit of fresh air. A visit to look at the endless objects in the museum shop on the first floor is also highly recommendable.

Lastly, remember that the museum is currently being reconstructed. 95% of the compound is closed but the 400 main masterpieces are on show. That is somewhat less than the 5,000 paintings and 800,000 drawings in the full collection, but, rest assured, it does not seem a small amount at all.

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