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A Glimpse into the Dutch Golden Age

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the most important museums in the Netherlands, best known for its paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. World-famous masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen are on display in the Gallery of Honour & the Night Watch Gallery. But there is much more to see: the museum houses all kinds of objects from the Middle Ages up to the present, taking you on a journey through the history of the Netherlands. There is even an aeroplane in the attic! Check out the Rijksstudio website for all the museum’s collections, including an overview of highlights. Every year, two million people visit the museum. Make sure to buy your tickets online in advance and arrive early in the morning to avoid having a crowd standing between Rembrandt and yourself.

President Barack Obama looks at Rembrandt’s self portrait as the Apostle Paul
Rembrandt’s selfie as the Apostle Paul

The Rijksmuseum was designed by architect Pierre Cuypers, who also built Amsterdam Central Station and De Haar Castle. In 1885, when the museum opened, not everybody appreciated the Gothic Revival architecture. King Willem III, for instance, disliked the building so much that he announced he would never set foot in it. (‘Je ne mettrai jamais le pied dans ce monastère.’) However, when Queen Beatrix reopened the museum in 2013 after a renovation by Antonio Cruz & Antonio Ortiz, the new Rijksmuseum caused national excitement. And as a bibliophile, I myself am especially pleased with the galleries in the Cuypers Library. Our children’s favourite painting here is Morning Ride along the Beach by Anton Mauve, because we always take them to museums while they would prefer to go to the beach.

Reader comments

My youngest daughter

I also like the portrait of Gerard Andriesz Bicker by Bartholomeus van der Helst, because Gerard is such a fatty, and Claude Monet’s La Corniche near Monaco, because this image is on the front cover of the Bible that my father made for my oldest brother.


My favourite of the four paintings by Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum is The Milkmaid. There are just 36 known Vermeer paintings worldwide; the three other ones in the Netherlands reside at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.


When Baron Éric de Rothschild decided to put two Rembrandts from his Paris bedroom up for sale, the Rijksmuseum was rather keen on purchasing these portraits of Marten Soolmans & Oopjen Coppit. However, the State could only free up half the asking price of € 160 million, and the French, utterly annoyed at the prospect of seeing both paintings leave the country, quickly intervened and robbed their central bank to come up with the other half. The result is that Marten & Oopjen now have to be shared with the Louvre Museum in Paris, where they are currently on display, before coming back for the Year of Rembrandt in 2019.