Art & Design Magazine

Golden Age Masters and Personalized 17th Century Muskets: My Trip to the Rijksmuseum

By Amsterdam City Tours

Although I've already written at length about the Rijksmuseum in anticipation of the re-opening, now that I’ve actually personally been there, I realize that you can never say too much about the Rijksmuseum. Also, in case you haven't noticed, this week has been a pretty big one for the Netherlands and all things orange and Dutch in general, and nothing (that isn't a windmill) screams "Dutch" more than the Rijksmuseum.

The NIght

The Night Watch

To get into the spirit of all things Dutchie, I decided to pay a visit to the newly renovated Rijksmuseum. And boy, did it exceed my expectations!

Right off the bat, I was embarrassingly impressed by the bike path that runs smack through the middle of the museum’s atrium. After getting wind of the plan to not include a bike pass through the museum, the Dutch Cyclists Union (which is a pretty important organization here in Amsterdam since, as you may have already noticed, the Dutch are pretty into their bikes) convinced the architects in charge of the re-design that cyclists should continue to be able to pass through the museum, and to adjust their plans accordingly. After long delays and going many, MANY euros over budget, the architects turned this wish into beautiful, supremely practical reality. They replaced the walls of the original Passage with glass and dug into the waterlogged piles that form the foundation of much of Amsterdam in order to cover it in concrete and make it workable. Honestly though, I discovered all of this in retrospect. Once there, all you see is a lovely spacious passageway with very subtle entrances to the side into an even more spacious and bright multilevel atrium. The bike pass through the museum is a very Dutch solution (although the architects in charge were actually Spanish, but whatever) to the lack of space and complicated transportation routes synonymous with what it means to live in this busy, crowded city.

I don't usually consider coat checks an important feature of museums (or a feature at all), but dear God, this was one of the fastest, best dressed, most polite coat check staff I have ever seen in my life. And I have actually worked a coat check before! Also, it's freeeee! (As a North American, coming across free coat check is tantamount to a miracle; I gather things are a little different this side of the pond) For those weary tourists used to lugging around their possession on sightseeing trips, being able to quickly and efficiently check in your often heavy possessions is a godsend.

I highly recommend buying a ticket online in advance, as I have heard the lines can be ridiculous at times. With my lovely printed out ticket on hand, it took me maybe 20 seconds to enter. (The same goes for other Amsterdam museums actually, including the handily located Van Gogh Museum likewise found on Museumplein)

Give yourself around 5 hours if you want to tour the museum in its entirety. We were there for 3 hours in total, and we only say 2 floors, and fleetingly at that. There really is a wealth of history to be found here, from period dresses, silverware, and guns, to the paintings of the Golden Age Masters you've heard so much about. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Rijksmuseum was not just art - in my ignorance I hadn't even considered how much beauty Dutch history has to offer in the non-painted art form. The beautiful doll houses, huge collection of personalized weapons and model boats are a testament to the fact that there literally is something for everyone here.

Cuypers Library

It's not all beauty though. In the 20th century collection of the museum, in a plain glass case, you will come across a gray and blue striped jacket that once belonged to a Dutch inmate of a Nazi concentration camp - a stark reminder that Dutch history has not always been beauty and light. After perusing the Golden Age floor, however, you'll have figured that out on your own. After all, the very essence of the Dutch Golden Age is the realism found in everyday life. The Rijksmuseum very much pays homage to the Dutch Baroque period in this respect - the dark colors of the walls and dimly lit rooms are eerily similar to those found in Dutch Baroque art, which I imagine is exactly what the designers were going for.

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