The Rijksmuseum was officially opened to the public in 1885.  At over 130 years old, the building remains a grand and ornate sight.

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

It is not just about the famous artwork, but the building itself is amazing.

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

The newly renovated Great Hall comprises a floor of inlaid mosaics and wall paintings showing artists, rulers and important events of Dutch history.

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Above are incredible stained-glass windows and decorated ceilings. So, before you make a beeline for the art, take the time to look around, up and down to see this magnificent work. It can often be overlooked.

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

The gallery rooms are spacious, and the artwork is given plenty of space in which to shine. You should allow a few hours for your visit here.

This museum is not only dedicated to Dutch painters either. Over 8,000 pieces of art are on display including paintings, Delft Blue ceramics, glasswork, miniatures, pottery, furniture and much more.

Now for some of those famous works of art:

Rembrandt was one of the most important master artists of the Dutch Golden Age (1581- 1672).  The Night Watch (1642) is a permanent resident of this museum and most likely its biggest drawcard.

Rijksmuseum - Rembrandt - Night Watch

Rijksmuseum - Rembrandt - Night Watch

The painting is famous for three things: its colossal size (363 cm × 437 cm), the dramatic use of light and shadow and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static group portrait. Take note of the three most important characters among the crowd: the two men in the centre and the woman (apparently Rambrandt’s wife) in the centre-left background carrying a chicken. The figures are almost life-size. A total of 34 characters appear in the painting.

Rijksmuseum - Rembrandt - Night Watch

The Night Watch first hung in the Great Hall in Amsterdam. In 1715, the painting was moved to the Amsterdam Town Hall, for which it was trimmed on all four sides, presumably to fit the painting between two columns. This alteration resulted in the loss of two characters on the left side of the painting, the top of the arch, the balustrade, and the edge of the step.

This 17th-century painting “Copy after The Nightwatch” by Gerrit Lundens (c 1642-1649) shows the original composition.

Rijksmuseum - Lundens - Night Watch copy

“The Syndics of the Clothmakers’ Guild” (1662) These five men and their servant were the sampling officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ guild in 1662. No matter where you stand, all but one of the syndics follows you with their eyes.

Rijksmuseum - Rembrandt - Syndonics

“The Milkmaid” (1658) is a painting of a milkmaid by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It is regarded as one of the museum’s finest attractions.

The painting shows a milkmaid carefully pouring milk into an earthenware pot. On the table in front of the milkmaid are various types of bread. She is a young, sturdily built woman wearing a crisp linen cap and blue apron. A foot warmer is on the floor behind her near the Delft wall tiles. Apparently, this painting is quite suggestive in what she might be thinking.

Rijksmuseum - Vermeer - The Milkmaid

Another of Vermeer’s famous paintings, “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

“Militia Company of District VIII” (1639) by Dutch artist Bartholomeus van der Helst. This civic guard painting is a substantial 7.5 metres wide.

Rijksmuseum - Helst -Militia Company of District VIII

Stop by this painting for awhile and look at the expresssions, the costumes, weaponry. There’s even a child and a dog. Amazing piece of work.

Rijksmuseum - Helst -Militia Company of District VIII

Rijksmuseum - Helst -Militia Company of District VIII

“The Threatened Swan” (1650) by another Golden Age Dutch artist, Jan Asselijn. It portrays a swan aggressively defending its nest, becoming a symbol of Dutch national resistance.

Rijksmuseum- Asselijn - The Threatened Swan

“A Woman with a Child in a Pantry” (1656) is a painting by the Dutch artist, Pieter de Hooch. In a room floored with yellow tiles stands, to the left, a young woman, wearing a red jacket and a blue skirt. She has just come from the pantry, and smilingly hands a jug to a little girl. There is something really sweet about this painting.

Rijksmuseum- Hooch - Woman in Pantry with child

“Company in a courtyard behind a house” (1665) is another painting by Pieter de Hooch. It shows daily life in the Golden Age.

Rijksmuseum- Hooch - Courtyard

“Portrait of Helen van der Schalcke as a child” (1648) by Gerard ter Borch. He specialised in painting miniature portraits in the 1640s, and later established a new type of small full-length portrait. This gorgeous little painting measures just 34 cm x 28 cm. It portrays a two-year girl in a white silk dress and holding a carnation, symbolising resurrection and the hope of eternal life. She is the daughter of a cloth merchant.

Rijksmuseum - Borch - Portrait of Helen

“Woman at the Virginal” (c1640), a small painting by Jan Miense Molenaer. A young woman plays the virginal in an elegant interior. Painted on the inside of the instrument’s lid is a landscape with an amorous couple strolling. There is also a young man at the door and a monkey warning her of the dangers of carnal desire.

Rijksmuseum - Molenaer - Woman at the Virginal

“The Oude Stadhuis in Amsterdam” (Old Town Hall) is a 1657 painting by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, based on a drawing he made of the Old Town Hall on Dam Square in Amsterdam before before its demolition in 1641. It was bought from the painter in 1658 by the mayor of Amsterdam for his office in the New Town Hall.

Rijksmuseum - Saenredam - Town Hall

“Banquet Still Life” (1644) by Adriaen van Utrecht. This artist has demonstrated that he could paint virtually anything, from tableware to glass, fruit, an enormous lobster on a Chinese plate, a cut-open pasty, and much more. Given its striking low vantage point, this large painting was most likely meant to hang above a chimneypiece. So much going on in this painting – Take the time to look into it.

Rijksmuseum - Utrecht Banquet Still Life

“The Lute Player” (1661) by Dutch artist Hendrick Martensz Sorgh. This painting is beginning to depict high-life genre of life the Golden Age rather than those showing a more peasant lifestyle.

Rijksmuseum - Sorgh -The Lute Player

“Still life with Asparagus” (1697) by Adriaen Coorte. This small painting (20.5cm x 25cm) of a single vegetable is a stark contrast to other still-lifes that were in fashion at the time. It does draw your attention to it though

 Rijksmuseum - Coorte - Still Life with Amsterdam

“The Thiumphal Chariot of Kallo” (1638) by Peter Paul Rubens. It is a good idea to photograph the details of a painting/artwork for future reference.

Rijksmuseum Rubens - Chariot of Kallo

Rijksmuseum Rubens - Chariot of Kallo

I only took part of this painting but love the detail. Not sure of the artist though. Point to note, follow advice just given previously.

Rijksmuseum

Delft Pottery – Among many other displays of porcelain and ceramics, this particular one caught my eye. The blue and white Delft earthenware date from around 1640 to the end of the 19th century.

Rijksmuseum Delft Pottery

Most famous of these are the violin and the tulip pyramid vases.

Rijksmuseum Delft Pottery

Here is a selection of some other items on display.

Rijksmuseum - treasures

Dolls Houses – The museum has three antique dolls’ houses on display. These 17th century curiosities were not children’s toys, but rather a sort of expensive hobby for wealthy housewives. Below is a painting of one of the houses.

Rijksmuseum - Miniature Dolls Houses

These were the actual houses.  They were decorated with glass, silver, china and textile furnishings created exactly to scale. Incredible.

Rijksmuseum - Miniature Dolls Houses

Rijksmuseum - Miniature Dolls Houses

“Girl in a Kimono” (1894) by George Hendrik Breitner is an exhibition I was able to view while visiting Rijklmuseum in 2016. There are several in the series. A young model, Geesje Kwak posed for most of these paintings wearing different coloured kimonos.

Rijksmuseum - Breotmer - Kiminos

Catwalk Exhibition – I was also lucky enough to see the Catwalk Exhibition whilst visiting Rijksmuseum in 2016. This was dedicated to the fashion of the Dutch from 1625 to 1960. Garments from the Golden Age, silk gowns and velvet suits from the 18th century, classic Empire dresses and bustles from the end of the 19th century and French haute couture by Dior and Yves Saint Laurent of the 1960’s.

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

We actually took seats around the catwalk as it continually paraded these amazing outfits. Such a great idea to view how fashion has developed over the centuries.

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Many other outfits were displayed throughout the display.

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

This particular Mantua Dress was interesting. On her wedding day in 1759 Helena Slicher wore this gown with a skirt no less than two-metres wide! The skirt is supported by large panniers and side hoops around the hips. Just amazing and beautifully embroidered, and over 250 years old!

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

This idol caught my eye and was just so beautiful. Look at the folds in the dresses.

Rijksmuseum - Catwalk Exhibition

If you have the time, check out the library – A booklover’s paradise, the Cuypers Library is the oldest and most extensive collection of art history texts in the Netherlands. Visitors are welcome to come and browse the shelves and study.

 Rijksmuseum - Cuypers Library

What an amazing museum. Hopefully if you have the time when visiting Amsterdam, you can spend some time here.

Also try and visit the Rembrandt Night Watch Sculptures in Rembrandt Square.

On the occasion of the 400th birthday anniversary of Rembrandt, two Russian artists re-created the canvas into a 3-dimensional representation. The result, a bronze version of the famous painting, can be found at the Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square) in Amsterdam. Definitely worth visiting where you can walk among the characters of the painting.

Amsterdam - Rembrandt Square

Many thanks to my friend Montse who took me to Rijksmuseum. As a local, she had been there many times before and knew  all of the best parts to see in the limited time we had. What a memorable visit.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, CHECK OUT MORE ON THE NETHERLANDS…

Must see Amsterdam

Touring the towns of the Waterland

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens – a feast of colour

Alkmaar – A cheese market, canals and much more

Haarlem, another beautiful Dutch city

Delft, home of the famous blue pottery

Leiden – another Dutch city you simply must visit

Leiden – churches, museums and so many historic buildings

The Maruitshuis Museum in The Hague

The perfect Spring Day in Utrecht

The famous windmills of Kinderdijk