One of the most visited tourist destinations in the city of Amsterdam is Rijksmuseum. This elegant museum is home to more than 1,000,000 pieces of documents, artworks, and other valuable items that are associated with the history of the Netherlands. Even though the museum has been in existence since the year 1800, it was initially founded in The Hague. However, the government officials gradually decided to relocate the museum to the Dutch capital a few years later.
The Dutch government built another museum in the late 17th Century for preserving the natural heritage of the country. The design of the museum that was modeled around the Louvre of Paris became a sight of significant importance to the Dutch within a few years. When the museum was located in The Hague, it was called as the Nationale-Kunst Gallerij. During those days, the institution contained around 200 artworks, which were owned by influential and wealthy Dutch citizens.
Due to the political developments and curatorial issues in the Netherlands, the collections that were housed inside the Nationale-Kunst Gallerij were moved to certain locations. However, the Dutch government eventually decided to build a museum in the city of Amsterdam to house the collections and artworks permanently. The classically inspired gothic design of the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers was finally completed in the year 1885, after a decade of construction work.
The masterpiece of Rembrandt, The Night Watch was added to the permanent collection of the museum by this time. Due to the immense size of this painting, museum authorities were forced to build a special hall to accommodate the artwork. This allowed visitors to experience the famous painting in its glory. There are several wings and rooms in the Rijksmuseum currently and the museum is also able to display approximately 8,000 artworks at a given time. Below are three must-see paintings in the museum that you should not miss when you go on a Rijksmuseum tour.
Woman Reading A Letter
“Woman Reading A Letter” is one of the finest paintings of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Unfortunately, we know very little about the artist and his works. This painting by Vermeer is regarded as one of the best portrayals of the private world of a young woman. In the painting, you can see a woman holding a letter inside a room.
The ways in which the woman parts her lips and clutches the paper indicate that the letter gave her some important news. If you take a close look at the painting, you can see that the woman in the painting seems like she is pregnant. So, she might have received some news that may change both her and the baby’s life.
The Merry Family
The playful representation of chaotic family dynamics is a common sight in the works of Jan Steen, and his famous “The Merry Family” painting also falls under this category. If you look at this image, you can easily identify that a family is having a party. The family members are playing music, singing songs, and even spilling drinks.
However, a hanging paper with “Like Father, Like Son” inscription is clearly visible at the top right corner of the painting. Several artists and art enthusiasts claim that Steen was trying to convey that even though a life of drunkenness might seem fun, it is not a good example that you can set for your kids. This painting is displayed together with some other famous works of Jan Steen. So, make sure to check those paintings too.
The Night Watch
“The Night Watch” is one of the best portrait paintings of the Dutch Baroque era, and the artist, Rembrandt van Rijn, painted it in the peak years of his career. In fact, the painting is regarded as the most complex, largest, and the famous painting of the artist. This painting is also one of the 125 surviving civic guard portraits.
This ensemble portrait from Rembrandt was the first event painting that depicted the members of a citizen’s police force or city militia in action. Some of the members in the image are bleary-eyed while others seem to be a bit drunk. However, all of them seem ready for the night that is ahead of them. There have been multiple vandalism attacks on this painting in the last 40 years. However, Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” has still not lost its charm.
If you still have time after admiring the beauty of these paintings, then you should try to see the Self-Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, “The Battle of Waterloo” by Jan Willem Pieneman, and Johannes Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” before ending your Rijksmuseum tour. You can learn more about the paintings in the museum and a few interesting stories too from our Amsterdam private tour guide during your two-hour Rijksmuseum tour.