Animals at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is filled with animals at the moment! They’re on loan from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden and they’re accompanying an exhibition of works by Frans Post, sketches and paintings made during his time in Brazil. In many cases the exhibition displays a stuffed version of the animal next to the sketch. You can see the precision of Post’s work. Here’s the Capybara, positioned under an oil painting view that includes a capybara.

Capybara and Frans Post paintingThe exhibition is on until 7 January – so hurry up!

In the main entrance hall there are animals from other places to admire – including a pair of polar bears looking down on you.

polar bears

Amsterdam is so Cool

Keeping cool at Museumplein thanks to the fire brigade who turned the pond outside the Rijksmuseum into a water feature.  Only one word for it… “superleuk”.

Dining with the Tsars


Dining with the Tsars is the current exhibition at the Hermitage Amsterdam, it’s a small exhibition of some of the beautiful dining sets used at the Russian court, with a lot of information about court practices, etiquette and menus. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon visit.

The dish shown above is from the “Cameo Service“, which was commissioned by Catherine the Great and presented to her lover Prince Grigory Potemkin. It’s beautiful, the astonishing turquoise colour is created by using multiple firings with a copper glaze. To make the set Sèvres had to find new manufacturing techniques.

Dining with the Tsars main hallThe museum has, as usual, done a magnificent job creating the exhibition. The main hall has a series of tables set as if for dinner, each setting is slightly different, and you are able to get very close to the tables. The smaller rooms upstairs have information about the manufacturing, the dress, dining protocols and history. There are also a couple of additional services, including one given by Hungary to Stalin. Contrary to my expectations of a communist leader, Stalin entertained lavishly and used the service.

The exhibition is open until 1 March 2015, and it’s 15 euro entrance fee (or free if you use your Museumkaart).

The Trapdoor at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum designed by Cuypers was built as a “gate” to Amsterdam, as it stands just outside the line of the 18th Century city walls. It balances the Central Station, at the other end of the city, and also designed by Cuypers. It houses some of the most important artifacts of Dutch history and the famous of Dutch art, including the Night Watch. Here’s a view of it showing the gate structure at its centre, the Night Watch is displayed directly over the arch.nt_rijksmuseum2

The Night Watch went back into it’s former position when the Rijksmuseum was re-opened  – one of the few works not to be moved.

It’s considered the most famous painting by Dutch people, it has such cultural significance that it has its own escape hatch at the museum. A guide told me that there’s a trap door just in front of the painting, and the painting can be dropped to safety. The black section here is apparently the outside part of the trapdoor.


The trapdoor wasn’t installed for the renovation though, it was installed in the early 1930’s, and used in 1939 to removed the Night Watch before the art-acquisitive Nazis arrived. The painting spent the war in hiding, as did a number of artworks from the Rijksmuseum. The museum could re-open following the war with an almost intact collection.

Bad Thoughts at the Stedelijk Museum

Minds out of the gutter – it’s an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.

It’s a selection of works from the personal collection of Martijn and Jeannette Sanders, who started collecting in the 70’s. Because it’s a personal connection, built on personal appreciation of works rather than curated to an imposed standard, it’s rather quirky. They discuss their collection in a short interview taken in their own home.

The exhibition includes paintings, mixed media, installations, video, sculpture and photography. It’s some of the “new greats” in art, and worth seeing. The exhibition is on until 9 November 2014, you can buy tickets on the museum’s website.

The Silk Road

camelsilkrouteI visited the Hermitage again, this time to see their “Silk Road Exhibition; Treasures from the Hermitage“.

The Silk Road stretched from China to Europe through various central Asian countries, it crossed borders, cultures and languages allowing trade for centuries. It’s a fascinating route – the cultures and languages along it are diverse and so are the treasures in the exhibition.

There are a pair of merchant’s trousers, which means you’re looking at silk that was woven more than a thousand years ago. Wall frescoes from many of the trading station have been restored and show the legends of the time. There’s a wall of coins from across the route, and there are figurines whose faces show the diversity of people involved in this most famous of trading routes.

The artifacts are beautifully presented, with good information about the treasures. It’s set up so that you can travel “east to west” or “west to east”, which is a nice touch reflecting the travel on the Silk Road. Although few traders travelled from one end to the other – instead going back and forth between trading posts.

What I missed was a sense of context, the exhibition focused on the discovery and recovery of the artifacts by various Russian explorers. I care less about that than the culture behind the frescoes, the people who traded, and the babble of the marketplace.

The exhibition is on until 5 September 2014, daily from 10am to 5pm. Tickets cost 15 euro, although entry is free with a Museumkaart.


Van Gogh Museum turns Forty

In 1973 the Van Gogh museum was opened, this video clip made at the time shows the paintings being bought into the new building, unpacked and hung. Museum staff used paper cut in the same size as the paintings to arrange them. On the opening day Queen Juliana and Vincent William van Gogh, the artist’s nephew, viewed the paintings.


Until the new museum was built the paintings were held as part of the Stedelijk collection, the commentary of the movie is only in Dutch but the commentator begins by saying that “Amsterdam has built a museum for one man, and is busy with the installation of 230 paintings and 500 drawings from the one man”. Neither Rembrandt nor Vermeer have their own museum, perhaps reflecting the limited number of works available rather than their status.

The museum was added to in 98/99 with new exhibition space designed by Kisho Kurakawa – that’s the round building on the Museumplein side – and has just had six months refurbishment.

It was the most visited museum in Amsterdam every year from 2008 to 2012, but that may change this year with the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum.


Note; I would have embedded the video, but the code provided uses an iframe which is a risky way to share content and not accepted by WordPress, so sorry – you’ll have to click the link!