The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.
The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. On 13 April 2013, after a ten-year renovation which cost € 375 million, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix. In 2013 and 2014, it was the most visited museum in the Netherlands with record numbers of 2.2 million and 2.45 million visitors. It is also the largest art museum in the country.
The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The museum also has a small Asian collection, which is on display in the Asian pavilion.
Note: When inside a gallery, you can click in the direction of the arrows that appear to move in that direction. Feel free to move and explore the exhibits. You can use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out to have a wonderful view of the exhibits. If you are using a mobile you can use pinch zoom.
Rijksmuseum – Entrance to the museum
Rijksmuseum – Middle Ages Renaissance Gallery
Rijksmuseum – Special Collections Gallery (Ship model / Arms / Fashion)
Rijksmuseum – “The Renaissance in Italy” Gallery
The revival of interest in classical antiquity in the early 15th century is known as ‘the renaissance” meaning ‘rebirth”. The renaissance started in Italy, where architectural ruins and discoveries of ancient Roman coins, cameos, bronzes and marble statues inspired artists to create a new style. This was based on classical forms, motifs and themes, often taken from Greek and Roman mythology.
In the same period, Scholars studied the writings of ancient Greek writers and philosophers, from which new and often critical ideas about mankind, Society and religion emerged. The invertion of printing hastened the dissemination of these ideas throughout Europe.
Rijksmuseum – “Naval Power” Gallery
The Dutch Republic owned its prosperity to the sea-to its merchant fleet and fishing. Conflicts with rival powers were also fought at sea. The admiralties of Holland, Zeeland and Friesland mustered the navy, often hiring and arming the merchant ships in times of war to take their naval forces to maximum strength. It was only after a ruinous war with England (1652-1654) that the Republic build up a professional navy, which repeatedly went to action, with great success. The navy’s main task was defensive: protecting the merchant fleet, engaging in combat to secure free trading routes to Asia and the Baltic Sea and preventing invasions. Under the command of admirals such as Cornelis Tromp and Michiel de Ruyter, great naval battles were waged against the English, French and Swedish fleets. Their victories made them national heroes and provided marine painters with a rich source of inspiration.
Rijksmuseum – “Waterloo and King William I” Gallery
Those born in the Netherlands in 1800 would have experienced many political upheavals during their lifetime. In 1806 the French emperor Napoleon transformed the Batavian Republic into the Kingdom of Holland, with his brother Louis Napoleon as king. In 1810, Napoleon took personal charge of the Netherlands, which he made a department of France. When the French were driven from the Netherlands in 1813, the House of Orange returned to power. At the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the northern and southern Netherlands were combined in a single kingdom under King William I. This was not a lasting union, however, for the southern provinces seceded in 1830 and formed the Kingdom of Belgium.
Both Louis Napoleon and William I felt it important for their subjects to identify themselves primarily as Netherlands, rather than citizens of, say, Amsterdam or Limburg. Their efforts to create a greater sense of national unity included focusing attention on national history and culture. In 1820, the same standardized units of measurement – the metre, the kilogram and the litre-were also introduced throughout the realm.
Rijksmuseum – “Renaissance in the Low Countries” Gallery
The 16th century was a century of great changes. The Reformation and the emergence of Humanism turned medieval perceptions of the world upside down. A growing interest in the individual gave rise in the fine arts to an expanding production of portraits,not only of the nobility, but also of the self-assured citizens. Many artists no longer presented themselves as anonymous craftsmen, but rather as artistic personalities. In the arts, the ‘antique’ style of the Italian Renaissance flourished.
The chief centres of art in the southern Netherlands were the humanist,intellectual circles in Antwerp and at the Mechelen court of the regent, Margaret of Austria,where artists from all over Europe came together. The foremost artistic centres in the northern Netherlands were Amsterdam(Jacob Cornelisz), Utrecht (Jan Van Scorel) and Leiden (Lucas Van Leyden).
Rijksmuseum – “Man” Gallery
In reaction to the mass production of the Industrial Revolution, handmade objects became popular again around 1900. Motifs from the animal and plant worlds formed the basis for pattern and ornament in furniture and other applied arts. A stimulating and sometimes exotic living environment evolved, one that reflected spiritual and material riches.
Not only the arts but also the sciences and technology were modernized. New life sciences emerged, and the streets throbbed with the sound of engines. The exploitation of the colonies provided a steady supply of cash. Since the Netherlands remained neutral during the First World War (1914-1918), it was able to strengthen its position as a colonial trading power. Shortly afterwards, however, the country was plunged into crisis by the international financial crash and the threat of fascism. In May 1940 the German army invaded the Netherlands. During the five-year occupation by the Nazis around 110,000 Dutch Jews were sent to their death in concentration camps.
Rijksmuseum – “Machine” Gallery
The arrival of the aeroplane at the beginning of the 20th century led to a totally new perception of space. Suddenly one had a new perspective on the world from the air. A young generation of artists, architects and designers embraced the aeroplane as the symbol of the new times;they wanted to create a weightless world of light, air and space. Decoration became a superfluous luxury. The machine served as an ally in the search for pure form-an instrument and an example, at one ard the same time. Rational functionalism became the new yardstick for a better living and work environment for the masses.
These ideas were fostered by a small group of enthusiastic and progressive artists and architects: the international avant-garde of the 1920s. The Dutch artists associated with the periodical De Stijl contributed significantly to this movement. They advocated ‘nieuwe beelding’, or new imagery, a pure, abstract art of line, flat planes and color that created the world in which modern man could develop.
Rijksmuseum – “French Court Art” Gallery
The French king Louis XIV (1638-1715) reigned as an absolute monarch. He was known as the ‘Sun King’, since he believed that the world revolved around him. He turned his court at Versailles near Paris into the dazzling focus not only of France, bot of all of Europe. The style of Versailles vividly expressed Louis’ supreme power and glory.
Artists throughout Europe were drawn to Paris. The style that was developed there became authoritative. The greatest innovations took place in architecture, cabinetry,tapestry weaving, and gold and silversmith work.
The emergence of Paris as the centre of visual art also had economic consequences. If the French previously acquired works of art for vast sums abroad, now foreigners flocked to Paris to buy products o lo mode.
Rijksmuseum – “The Hague School” Gallery
Around 1870, there was a group of painters in The Hague intent on representing typical Dutch themes, such as the daily life of peasants and fishermen, the sea, the beach and the flat polder landscape. Inspired by French landscape painters (the Barbizon School), the Hague artists ventured into the countryside in order to record nature.
Their broadly painted landscapes met with near instant success. Initially the group was called the ‘Grey School’ because of its preference of muted colours. Later this evolved into ‘The Hague School’. At the end of the century, Hague School painters also enjoyed international acclaim.
At the same time as Hague School landscape painters were active,photographers were also recording images of the countryside,which was undergoing rapid changes due to industrialization. They were employed by the State to document major public works. In these photographs, we witness the emergence of a modern Netherlands, with an extensive railway network, large steam pumping stations and wide canals for steamship traffic.
Rijksmuseum – “Historicism” Gallery
In the mid-19th century, the decorative arts in Europe could assume a wide variety of guises. The severe Empire style gave way to a grater freedom of form. Among the stylistic terms used were ‘eclecticism’-from the Greek word for ‘to select’-and ‘historicism’, as designers and craftsmen often chose to revive styles from the past.
A range of historicizing styles can be found in this gallery, from revivals of Gothic, Rococo, Classicism, Baroque and Egyptian, to Middle Eastern and Asian Influences. Designers in the 19th century interpreted them in their own fashion and did not hesitate to combine different styles in a single object.
Historicism is also evident in the painting of the period. Painters represented objects from historical periods with archaeological accuracy or used other devices to evoke a mood of earlier times.
Rijksmuseum – “Dutch Painters in Italy” Gallery
Italy, Already at the beginning of the 16th century Italy held a magnetic appeal for northern European artists. The art of antiquity was their inspiration, so what better place to study it? A century later, in the early 17th century, Dutch painters were drawn to Rome for a different reason. They were captivated by its picturesque street life and the sun-drenched landscape. Their classically trained colleagues looked down on them because they did not paint gods and saints, merely ordinary people engaged in everyday activities. In 1623 these Dutch artists founded a kind of artists’ fraternity called the Bentveughels (birds of a feather). This society, intended as a social network for the ‘migratory birds’ travelling to and from the north, often rebelled against Rome’s artistic establishment. The paintings that the Bentveughels made on their return to the Netherlands presented Italy as a land where life was blissfully simple, bathed in warm and sunny light. Their work Influenced other artists for a long time to come.
Rijksmuseum – “Citizens in Power” Gallery
‘True Liberty’ is what many people called the period that dawned in 1651. After the sudden death of Stadtholder William II, five of the seven provinces decided not to appoint a new stadtholder and commander-in-chief. The Dutch Republic became a nation without a head of state, and the House of Orange seemed to be shut out. All of the power fell into the hands of the citizens, and the economic interests of the people henceforth determined policy.
One citizen stood head and shoulders above everyone else: Johan de Witt of Dordrecht. This brilliant man was only 28 when, In 1652, he became the most important administrator of Holland and the Republic. During that period, the country’s power and prosperity seemed only to increase. This ended abruptly in 1672, however, when the country was attacked from all sides. The young Prince William III of Orange seized power, and De Witt and his brother were brutally assassinated.
Rijksmuseum – “The birth of Dutch Republic” Gallery
A war of independence, religious strife and the struggle to retain power made the second half of the 16th century one of the most violent and chaotic periods in Dutch history. Churches were plundered, cities besieged, people slaughtered, and battles fought everywhere. Many objected to the growing power of Phillip II, King of Spain and Lord of the Netherlands, to the exorbitant taxes, and to the might of the Catholic Church. William of Orange, a high-ranking nobleman, emerged as the leader of the revolt that began in 1568. Although this was never intended, the struggle ultimately tore the country apart: the north-the present-day Netherlands-became a separate, Protestant republic, and the south-now Belgium-remained Spanish and Catholic.
Rijksmuseum – “Musical Instruments” Gallery
Rijksmuseum – “Citizens and regents” Gallery
The first half of the 18th century was an exceptional period for the Dutch Republic. From 1702 to 1747 it had no stadtholder (head of state) and therefore lacked an authoritative court. While the small republic no longer played an important role in international politics, it was still the most prosperous nation in the world. This affluence was more evenly distributed than in any other country. A sizeable middle class lived in cities that had become wealthy through trade and industry. People from this unusually large sector were interested in decorating their homes with beautiful utilitarian objects and works of art.
Political power was held by a small group of regents. Although they did not constitute an actual aristocracy, they were often related to one another. Lucrative and influential positions and jobs circulated among the members of this circle. Their lifestyle was strongly oriented to outward display and sometimes even assumed aristocratic elements.
Rijksmusuem – “Structure” Gallery
In the Immediate postwar years, strong government determined the shape of the modern Netherlands. An army of urban planners, economists, engineers and architects were employed to build a bigger, better and stronger country. The housing shortage was tackled through large-scale housing projects, and,after the flood of 1953, the Delta Works redressed the risk of flooding.
The idea that society could be improved, flourished as never before. The development of a welfare state guaranteed social stability. Strict planning regulations ensured a balanced structure of living and working spaces, combined with freedom of movement. The aspiration to create a modern Netherlands left a recognizable mark: straight lines, bright colors and open spaces defined the new order – from chair to city and from stamp to polder. The modernism of the 1920s served as a source of inspiration. Order and structure- through grids and modules-characterized art, typography, architecture and city planning. Within this system, an endless variation was possible.
Rijksmuseum – “The Enlightenment in the Netherlands” Gallery
The Enlightenment was a European movement that placed reason and scientific investigation above the authority of the traditional ruling classes and the Church. In the Netherlands, it led to the founding of numerous associations for the dissemination of knowledge and the improvement of social conditions. These associations held competitions on scientific, scholarly and social issues. The submissions were read out and discussed. The arts, too,were practiced and reviewed collaboratively. Collections of works of art and other objects were assembled for the purpose of increasing insight and knowledge.
Rijksmuseum – “Painting” Gallery
Although the legacy of the 17th century (Dutch Golden Age) is clearly evident well into the 18 century, the paintings from this period are distinctly modern. Interior scenes and portraits often bear witness to the latest fashions in dress and decorative art. During the 18th century, people proudly displayed their prosperity in representations of their homes or country estates;17th-century realism thus found a successor in these popular topographical depictions. Some paintings, aptly called conversation pieces, offer the viewer a wealth of details to study and discuss. Other works, such as rugged landscapes and images of children in their own setting, anticipated typical 19th-century Romantic themes, such as the Sublime and Picturesque, and a new focus on sentimentality.
Rijksmuseum – “Neoclassicism in the Netherlands” Gallery
Shortly after 1750, a strong reaction against the florid and fanciful Rococo style set in throughout Europe and the classical principles of ancient art and architectural gained new currency. Archaeological excavations, as at Pompeil and Herculaneum, added greatly to the knowledge of the art of antiquity. These undertakings were accompanied by publications with large illustrations, which provided sources of inspiration for artists. Greek and Roman buildings became the points of departure for every self-respecting architect and designer. The rules of proportion, architectural orders and individual ornaments were studied and emulated. Classical elements were applied to buildings, and even to objects that had not existed in antiquity. This artistic movement was called Neoclassicism.
In the Netherlands, this style came into vogue in the 1760’s. Moreover, the classically inspired Dutch art of the 17th century acquired an exemplary role in this development. Some Rococo shapes, however, persisted. They lived on, but were now combined with classicizing elements.
Rijksmuseum – “The Netherlands Overseas” Gallery
As in the 17th century, overseas trade was a mainstay of the Netherlands prosperity during the 18th century. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was headquartered in Batavia (Jakarta) in Indonesia, Whence trade in ‘the East’ was coordinated via a network of posts throughout Asia. Traders sought opportunities everywhere. In china, Westerners were allowed only into the post of Canton. Chinese craftsmen made artefacts in a Western style for the many Europeans living there in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the VOC concentrated on the cinnamon trade.
The Dutch West India Company (WIC) centred on West Africa, Suriname and the Antilles. From Fort Elmina, the Dutch trading post on the West African Gold Coast (now Ghana), gold ivory and slaves were shipped out to various places, such as Suriname, where the slaves were put to work on one of the many plantations. The WIC ships then returned to the Netherlands laden with commodities, such as sugar.
Traces of the Dutch presence overseas can still be found today, for instance in geographical names such as Mauritius (after Prince Maurits of Nassau) and the Cape of good Hope (Kaap de Goede Hoop)
Rijksmuseum – “Cabinets of art and curiosities” Gallery
From the mid-16th century, European royal courts became centres of a new culture in which art and science, following the example of classical antiquity, were held in high esteem. New scientific developments were translated into new types of art works. A clock could signify the universe, and a cabinet of art reflected the visible world in miniature.
Wealthy rulers assembled a Kunst-und Wunderkommer- a cabinet of art and curiosities-filled with exotic natural specimens, which were fashioned into the most extraordinary works of art. Noblemen displayed their knowledge, their aesthetic sensibility and their wealth, but not to everyone. Only a privileged few were granted access to such collections.
Rijksmuseum – “Flemish Influences” Gallery
Around 1600, no one could have foreseen that the war between the Dutch Republic and Spain would lead to the definitive division of the northern and southern Netherlands. Although the northern region (now the Netherlands) became an independent country, it shared with the southern region (now roughly Belgium) the same typical urban and middle-class culture. The prosperous provinces of Flanders and Brabant set the tone.
When Spain retook the Brabant city of Antwerp in 1585, many south Netherlanders, including numerous artists and artisans, filed to the north. These immigrants would deeply influence the development of the arts in the north, not only painting and sculpture, but also interior decoration and furniture. The split between the north and south was not complete from a cultural point of view. The two regions would continue to inspire and fascinate each other.
Rijksmuseum – “Power struggle in the young dutch republic” gallery
In 1609 Spain and the Dutch Republic signed a truce that would last for twelve years. During the suspension of hostilities, internal politics and religious differences flared up. The bones of contention were various unresolved issues, such as the autonomy of the provinces and the relationship between church and state. The mounting tensions led to profound conflict between Prince Maurice, Stadtholder and commander-in-chief, and Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the powerful grand pensionary of the province of Holland. Matters came to a head: with Maurice’s consent, Oldenbarnevelt received the death penalty; the others, including the prominent jurist Hugo de Groot, were imprisoned of banished. The ensuing outrage would smoulder for centuries. Objects keeping alive the memory of the condemned men were preserved as relics. Despite these domestic disturbances, the Dutch Republic’s economy continued to flourish and its citizens became ever more prosperous.
Rijksmuseum – “Specialization in painting” Gallery
Foreigners visiting the northern Netherlands were astonished time and again by the vast numbers of pictures to be found in the homes of both well-to-do and less affluent citizens. Even those with little to spend could generally afford to buy a print for one or two stuivers; the wealthier could literally fill their houses with paintings. Pictures were even hung in the kitchen. However, only the very rich could afford to assemble collections of works by celebrated masters.
Dutch painting during the 17th century was characterized by far-reaching specialization. Naturally, there were versatile artists like Rembrandt who was equal to any task, from biblical scenes to landscapes. Most painters, however, confined themselves to a single genre: merry companies, portraits, landscapes or still lifes. Moreover, each landscape painters who concentrated almost entirely on winter scenes, and still-life painters who painted nothing but floral bouquets.
Rijksmuseum – “Mannerism and Caravaggism” Gallery
While the war raged throughout the country, the foundations were also being laid for an unprecedented economic and artistic blossoming. Protestants from the southern Netherlands, fearing persecution for their faith, fled north to the Dutch Republic. Among these newcomers were many artists, including the Fleming Karel van Mander. He settled in Haarlem after spending years in Rome, Vienna and elsewhere, bringing with him drawings by Bartholomeus Spranger (court painter to Emperor Rudolf II). Spranger’s Mannerist style- characterized by ultra-refined, artificially elongated forms- became a veritable rage in the Republic. But not for long.
The growing number of Netherlands artists who travelled to Italy saw paintings by caravaggio, whose style was the polar opposite of Mannerism. Caravaggio did not paint sensually elegant, idealized nude gods and goddesses, but raw reality. In his work even apostles and saints have unkempt beards and dirty feet.
Rijksmuseum – “Asian Pavilion” Gallery
In the early 20th century, Dutch connoisseurs began to seriously study and collect the arts of Asia. The Rajksmuseum’s collection of Asian art is largely a result of the activities of the Society of Friends of Asian Art (Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst, VVAK). They were founded in 1918 and remain the most important lender of Asian art to the Rijksmuseum. The display on the first floor shows a selection of works from India, Indonesia and Cambodia. Nearly all of the artifacts in this gallery have a religious function and significance. Some are cult statues, made to honour the main deities of Hinduism and Buddhism. Others are architectural fragments that once formed part of the wider imagery of a temple or shrine.
Rijksmuseum – “China, Japan and Korea” Gallery
Around the 1st century AD, Buddhism was introduced from India into China, and in later centuries it spread also to Japan and Korea. This led to the extensive production of Buddhist Images and other sacred objects. Many older belief systems already existed in the region. In China, for instance, bronze and jade objects from tombs dating from more than 4000 years ago have also been preserved.
East Asian culture did not, however, focus exclusively on gods and the afterlife. Equal attention was given to enhancing earthly, secular life with luxury goods, such as screens, ceramics, metalwork and lacquerware. There was also a long standing tradition of collecting and studying such objects. The cultural elite compiled catalogues of art treasures and wrote treatises on such subjects as the subtle colour gradations of glazes on ceramics.
The objects in this gallery provide an impression of the many facets and high quality of the applied arts of China, Japan and Korea. The ‘treasury’ offers a display of small, sophisticated pieces from all over Asia.
Rijksmuseum – “Rococo in Netherlands” Gallery
Artists patrons in the 18th century were particularly interested in building and decorating the surroundings in which people lived. To create a beautiful ensemble to which all the arts contributed was their greatest aspiration. Paintings were often given a permanent place in these settings: on the ceiling, above doors or mantelpieces, or to fill large wall panels. Decorating the permanent and movable elements of the interiors was the focus of attention. During the second quarter of the century a style of French origin became fashionable: the Rocco. Typical of this style are elegant, curved shapes, with decorative ornament that resembles the irregular forms of nature, especially foliage, rocks and shells.
People also strove for more comfort. New types of furniture and objects were devised to make life easier and more pleasant. Many items that are still in use today were invented in the 18th century.