Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

Holland’s Premier Art Trove

The Rijksmuseum is Holland’s premier art trove, showing Rembrandts, Vermeer’s and 7500 other masterpieces over 1,5 km of galleries. To escape the biggest crowds, visit the Rijksmuseum after 3 pm. Or visit it during a sunny day. Or pre-book tickets online, which provides fast-track entry.

Originally the work of 19th-century architect Pierre Cuypers, the galleries housing the world-famous selection of Dutch art and artifacts now benefit from a modern reworking of space and light. The assemblage, too, has been expanded, restored and rethought. Displayed in 80 galleries over four departments, it presents a chronological overview of Dutch art.

Dutch Golden Age: 17th-Century

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam also shows The Milkmaid by Vermeer
The Milkmaid painted by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

The Golden Age art-works are the highlights in the Rijksmuseum. Feast your eyes on beautiful still life pairings; noblemen in ruffled collars and landscapes bathed in pale yellow light. The Night Watch of famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn takes pride of place. Initially named Company of Frans Banning Cocq (the leader of the militia’s), the Night Watch title was bestowed many years later due the the fact that the multiple layers of varnish that Rembrandt had applied to the painting had darkened. This gave the impression it was evening.

Other must-sees are obviously the typical Dutch Delftware (blue-and-white pottery), detailed 17th-century doll houses and the new Asian-Pavilion in the garden of the museum.

Rijksmuseum Doll Houses

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Doll Houses

Fun fact: The doll houses were once owned by two of Amsterdam’s wealthy women collectors: Petronella Dunois & Petronella Oortman. Made to scale they show exactly what the town houses of the wealthy women were like. In fact, madame Portman went to such lengths to furnish her dollhouse with exquisite miniature items of silverware, glass, furniture and tiny pictures, that it eventually cost her as much money as an actual canal-house would have done.

Renaissance Art

Galleries at Level 0 show paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance in the Netherlands and Italy. The eponymous creation by the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines is an impressive expression of female tenderness, while a new addition, Piero Torrigiani’s terra-cotta bust of “The Virgin as Mater Dolorosa”, offers another touching look of maternal devotion.

Rijksmuseum Gallery of Honor

From Level 0, go straight to Level 2. Here, more than 30 galleries celebrate the Golden Age of Dutch art in the 17th-century, when the Netherlands became a world power. The long Gallery of Honor forms the backbone of the whole collection.

Elegantly showcased against the gray surface of the Rijksmuseum alcoves and softly lit from above, still lives, portraits and genre paintings by the Dutch and Belgium masters come to life. They include the latest two additions, Jan Steen’s “A Burgomaster of Delft an his Daughter” and the arresting landscape “The Golden Bend in the Herengracht” by Gerrit Berckheyde, together with Frans Hals’s “Merry Drinker” and Pieter de Hooch’s alluring “A Mother’s Duty” – the “duty being the removal of nits from her child’s hair.

Rembrandt’s Night Watch

Rijksmuseum Rembrandt's Night Watch.
The Night Watch is perhaps the most famous Dutch painting.

The goal at the end of the Gallery of Honor is Rembrandt’s, the enormous, and famous group portrait of local militia once called “a thunderbolt of genius” and the only piece of art still it its original position in the Rijksmuseum.

After losing 3 children in their infancy, in 1642 Saskia and Rembrandt’s son Titus was born. One year later, Saskia died and business went downhill. Rembrandt’s impressive group portrait The Night Watch (1641) was hailed by art critics. However, some of the influential people Rembrandt depicted were not pleased. Every subject had paid 100 guilders (the currency of the Netherlands from the 17th century until 2002, when it was replaced by the euro), and some men were not happy at being shoved in the background. In response, Rembrandt told them where they shove their complaints. After that, Rembrandt van Rijn received far fewer orders

Rembrandt Self portrait in Amsterdam Museum
This beautiful self portrait from Rembrandt is a must-see!

Rembrandt began an affair with his son’s tutor, Geertje Dircx, but kicked her out a couple years later when he fell for the new au pair, Hendrickje Stoffels. In 1654 Hendrickje gave birth to Rembrandt’s daughter Cornelia. People did not take kindly to Rembrandt’s lifestyle and his spiraling debts, and in 1656 he applied for “cessio bonorum” (a voluntary surrender of goods by a debtor to his creditors). Rembrandt’s house and rich art collection were sold and he moved to Rozengracht 184 in Amsterdam’s Jordaan area.

Rijksmuseum Library by Pierre Cuypers

Rijksmuseum Library Visit
This library was made by the same architect who designed Amsterdam’s Central Station.

Before leaving the Rijksmuseum to explore its marvelous gardens, go to Level 1, to the gorgeous art library by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. The library has been renewed to its original stat and remains a brilliant example of Cuypers richly decorative, yet exquisite, interior design.The library’s reading room is opening for public and visitors will find iPads for browsing the Rijksmuseum’s collection further, as well as WiFi access.

Rijksmuseum Garden

The garden of the Rijksmuseum is free to enter and extra beautiful in summers.

This is one of a group of four statues, all of which are in the Rijksmuseum garden. The statues originally stood in the garden of Bosch en Hoven, a country estate near Haarlem. They were made by Jan Pieter Baurscheit the Elder, an Antwerp architect and sculptor often engaged by patrons in the Dutch Republic.

The gardens surrounding the Rijksmuseum, also updated with the original Cuypers style in mind, offer a welcome rest and yet more aesthetic pleasures, displaying international sculpture and a brand new Asian Pavilion. Surrounded by water, this houses the Rijksmuseum collection of Asian art dating back to 2000 B.C. and includes a couple of magnificent 14th-century Japanese wooden temple guardians. The sculpture-studded gardens around the exterior are free to visit.

Rijksmuseum Guided Tours

rembrandt night watch
One of word’s most expensive paintings.

It’s recommended to take a guided tour in the Rijksmuseum because this huge museum contains so many paintings with stories that only experts know. One of the best tours is a Rijksmuseum private tour combined with a private tour van Gogh museum. Learn everything about these two Dutch master painters from knowledgeable tour guides.

BOOK HERE >

Don’t wait in line, buy Rijksmuseum tickets here!

Rijksmuseum address: Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam. To get there, take tram 2, 5 or 12.

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