From a House in the Woods to the Museumplein

As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in April 2017, so this post may not be representative of this site today.

Apparently, it rains a lot in Amsterdam. According to Wikipedia, the city gets an average of 133 days of rain per year (for some perspective, Wiki also says that London, which is a famously rainy city, gets an average of 109.6), and though admittedly my trip was rather short (I was there for a long weekend), I will always remember Amsterdam with these bright blue skies.

And, also, for the flowers. This is what happens when you go to Amsterdam in the middle of Spring, you find little potted flowers on every windowsill, and a smorgasbord of blooms in every market.

And because I just can’t resist myself (it’s not the first time I do this), whenever it’s beautiful outside, what do I do? I go to a museum.


The Rijksmuseum (Dutch for “National Museum”) is a museum dedicated to art and history, and is located at the Museum Square (Dutch: Museumplein). It is surrounded by a few other museums: the Van Gogh Museum (I visited but they don’t allow pictures), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (Modern and Contemporary Art and Design), and the Koninklijk Concertgebouw, (the Royal Concert Hall).

The museum was originally founded in 1798 in The Hague, after Isaac Gogel, Minister of Finance to the Batavian Republic (ancestor State to The Netherlands) proclaimed that a national museum should be built, following the example of France’s Louvre.

Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli
Knight, Death, and the Devil by Albrecht Dürer

The museum opened officially in 1800, called Nationale Kunst-Galerij (National Art Gallery), hosted in Huis ten Bosch (“House in the Woods”), a royal palace in The Hague.

Detail of Portrait of a Man, Possibly Pieter Gerritsz Bicker by Maarten van Heemskerck
Portrait of Ottavio Strada by Jacopo Tintoretto
Detail of Portrait of Daniele Barbaro by Paolo Veronese
Mary Magdalene by Jan van Scorel

The museum was moved to Amsterdam in 1808 by order of Louis Bonaparte after his brother established the Kingdom of Holland in 1806. It was at this time, when the museum came to be housed in the Royal Palace, that The Night Watch by Rembrandt joined its collection.

Portrait of Erard de la Marck by Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen
The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn
Detail of The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn

The next few years were turbulent, and the museum’s collection moved to the Trippenhuis, which was found unsuitable, then to the Mauritshuis in the Hague, and then to King Louis Bonaparte’s summer palace Paviljoen Welgelegen in Haarlem.

The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, known as “The Syndics” by Rembrand van Rijn
Detail of The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn
The Cannon Shot by Willem can de Velde (II)
Detail of River Landscape with Riders by Aelbert Cuyp
Detail of Last Judgement by Lucas van Leyden
Detail of Last Judgement by Lucas van Leyden

In 1863 there was finally a design contest, but though Pierre Cuypers, who eventually won a second contest to create the new museum, also participated, none of the designs submitted were considered worthy of construction. The second contest was held in 1876, and the new museum opened in 1885.

A Militiaman Holding a Berkemeyer, Known as “The Merry Drinker,” by Frans Hals
Still Life with a Turkey Pie by Pieter Claesz
Children Teaching a Cat to Dance, Known as “The Dancing Lesson,” by Jan Havicksz Steen
Adolf and Catharina Croeser, Known as “The Burgomaster of Delft and His Daughter,” by Jan Havicksz Steen

The museum closed in 2003 to undergo a massive renovation process, with the Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz at the helm. It was reopened again in 2013, and it is today the most visited (and largest) museum in the country.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilus by Rembrandt von Rijn
Portrait of Elisabeth Dell by Ferdinand Bol
Detail of Self Portrait by Ferdinand Bol
Portrait Bust of Johann Neudörfer the Younger by Johan Gregor van der Schardt
Detail of Elegant Couples Courting by Willem Buytewech
Detail of Portrait of a Goldsmith, Probably Bartholomeus Jansz van Assendelft by Werner van den Valckert

The museum hosts a 1-million-object collection that spans 800 years, from 1200 to 2000, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, though only about 8,000 objects are currently on display.

Portrait of a Woman, Possibly Maria Trip by Rembrandt van Rijn
Model of the William Rex by Adriaen de Vriend

Rijksmuseum Research Library

This library is the largest public art history research library in the country. It contains over 400,000 monographs, 3,400 periodicals, and 90,000 art sales catalogues, and its collection grows, on average, by 10,000 items every year.

And, just to end on a lovely note, here are some good boys lovingly staring at their humans.

Detail from Portrait of William II, King of the Netherlands by Jan Adams Kruseman
Portrait of a Young Woman with “Puck” the Dog by Thérèse Schwartze
Portrait of Alida Christina Assink by Jan Adam Kruseman

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