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The Rijksmuseum was inaugurated in 1885 and still dominates the area around Museumplein. The museum’s collection is as impressive as the building itself: here you will find the masterpieces of the Golden Age, including Rembrandt van Rijn’s world-famous Night watch, which draws daily crowds.
One can spend days in the Rijksmuseum and still discover something new. The building was designed by architect P.J.H. Cuypers and houses thousands of historical artefacts that depict the history of the Netherlands. The various rooms in the museum are organised by century. The museum is unique in displaying paintings from a certain century together with other art forms from that period, providing a great historic framework of that era. The museum pays a great deal of attention to the Golden Age; the Gallery of Honour is entirely dedicated to that period.
The Rijksmuseum’s collections contain many masterpieces from the Golden Age, including the painting known as The Jewish bride and various self-portraits, such as Self-portrait as the apostle Paul. The highlight of any visit to the Rijksmuseum is of course the Night watch from 1642, the pièce de résistance of the Gallery of Honour. The painting is special because Rembrandt portrayed the characters in action, something that no one had ever done before. It is also the largest and most famous painting by the artist.
Rembrandt van Rijn was one of the great Dutch Masters. He was born in Leiden but moved to Amsterdam in 1631, where he painted many of his famous works. Rembrandt is admired for his playful use of light and darkness, lending his work a certain dramatic touch. When we admire Rembrandt’s paintings it feels as if we are drawn in by the lively scenes he depicted.
The Rijksmuseum also features works by Johannes Vermeer, another 17th-century Dutch Master. Vermeer had a unique talent for illuminating the subjects in his work. There are a remarkable number of paintings that depict light pouring in through a window on the left side of the painting. One of the most famous examples of this is undoubtedly the painting The Milkmaid. In addition to this masterpiece, the Rijksmuseum displays 3 more paintings by Vermeer, including the famous work View of houses in Delft (also known as The little street).
Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous Dutch painters from the Golden Age. Today, the painter is world-famous, but back in the 17th century – and the following centuries – his work was barely recognised. In the 19th century he was even referred to as the Sphinx of Delft, because so little was known about his life history. And that is quite remarkable as his paintings are very unique. Vermeer enjoyed painting quiet, intimate moments, where time seems to stand still.
The list of 17th-century Dutch Masters is not complete without the expressive portraits by Frans Hals, including Portrait of a couple and the painting known as The Merry Drinker. Hals was especially famous for his casual painting style, described by his contemporaries as a ‘rough style’. Also casual, but in a very different way, are the works by Jan Steen. This painter is mostly famous for his genre pieces that depict jolly and cheerful subjects, such as The Drunken Couple and The Merry Family.
Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, Netherlands