The history of Amsterdam in paintings

Because my son will be free from school next Thursday, I decided to take him to a museum. Not because he likes it; it’s just because I like it and because he needs to be entertained in one way or the other.

That’s why I used the website of the Dutch museum card to see whether it was able to recommend me a museum which is suitable for kids AND has paintings. The website advised me to go to the Rijksmuseum or to the Amsterdam Museum. I know the Rijksmuseum, I love the Rijksmuseum and I would love to go there, but it is not suitable for kids. Or at least; not for my son. So I think I will visit the Amsterdam Museum, and because I don’t have anything fun to do this evening, (just writing some papers) I decided to check the website of the museum to see what the museum is like, for I never visited it before.

The museum used to be called; Amsterdam Historisch Museum. Historisch; meaning: historical. I guess they changed the name because no tourist was be able to pronounce it. Amsterdam Museum is more clever, because it is both English and Dutch. I guess they expected a huge increase in visitors after changing the name. Nevertheless, it still is a museum about the history of Amsterdam. And it has paintings. These paintings probably serve to illustrate the history of Amsterdam. And I was happy to find out that the website of the museum shows all of these paintings, so I was able to see what paintings represent the history of Amsterdam.

ImageThis painting of Rembrandt is curious. It is an anatomical lesson, painted in 1656. Why did they choose to display this painting in a museum on the history of Amsterdam? Well,.. I think it’s quite simple: Rembrandt IS Amsterdam. OK,.. I have to admit; he did live in Leiden as well. But this painting was created in Amsterdam and the painting itself has a history which represents Amsterdam. In the 17th century, Amsterdam was very fortunate, and took part in the growing world of science. Both the fortune and the science is shown in the painting, for only wealthy doctors are able to pay for a painting. Albeit the doctor on this painting did not pay for it all by himself. The painting used to be a group portrait. But Amsterdam, like many other cities in the 18th century (and before), was not safe from big fires. One of them destroyed a huge part of the painting. Luckily; the core was saved from the fire.

Other paintings in the museum are, of course, views of Amsterdam. The canals are typical Dutch and the canals are Amsterdam’s grace; people know that for centuries. No wonder a lot of painters painted Amsterdam’s canals and streets. I was cornelis gerardus 't hooftsearching the online collection for Amsterdam painted by famous painters (like Rembrandt), but most of the paintings in the Amsterdam Museum were produced by names like Jacobus Storck, Willem Koekkoek, Hendrik Pothoven and Cornelis Gerardus ‘t Hooft. Even though they are all in the collection of the Rijksmuseum as well, little people know these painters. (or at least; I am not very familiar with them) I can only recall seeing a painting from ‘t Hooft, and that’s why I added his painting of the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam to this post. I’m looking forward to see this painting next Thursday. I like it. It’s dark. It has a certain ethos over it; which can easily remain unnoticed, just because it is so dark, warm and easing. At least that’s my opinion.

Some other paintings in the Amsterdam Museum are about slavery. An interesting and gruesome topic. It’s a black page in Dutch history; people tend to forget it ever happened at all. And we (the Dutch) seldom give it a moment’s thought that we made good money at the expense of many, many African lives. So it is more than fair the museum has some paintings on this subject. Unfortunately they apparently were unable to find any paintings that show the real deal of slavery, for most of the paintings in this category are of colonies in Suriname and portraits of investors of the West Indian Company (a chartered company of Dutch merchants who traded slaves). But the intention (not to hide this black page in our history) is a good one.

So, I’m very interested to see the paintings in real life. I probably will dedicate my next post on my visit.

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