Venturing Out Sans Toddler- Rijksmuseum and Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam, Netherlands

For the second half of our day in Amsterdam, I wanted to visit the Rijksmuseum, a big art museum, and Austin did not. So, he took Landon to the Maritime museum while I took on the Rijksmuseum. From where we parted ways after lunch, it was a far walk for both of us. My walk took me through the heart of the city where I discovered the famous floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt. These days, there were some bulbs and some live flowers, but mostly souvenir shops which was a little depressing. I also passed the Munttoren, a tower that was once part of the medieval gate into Amsterdam. It was first built in 1480, and the city has grown far beyond that original gate at this point.  
Rijksmuseum exterior
Exterior details

Even the outside of the Rijksmuseum was impressive. It was originally completed in 1885 after a contest was presented for the best design. Albert Cuypers won with a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The museum has recently undergone an extensive 10-year renovation and opened its doors last year. The inside is all new, and the outside was also restored. The detail of the outside of the building was incredible, and I could see the building from several blocks away. The long from near the train station was definitely worth it! Although it took awhile to get there, I saw many other tourists walking there as well so I didn’t feel quite as lame for losing my transportation pass and having to walk. 

I guess this is as good a time as any to apologize for the pictures. Because Austin had the stroller, I sent our camera and accessories with him, and just took my phone along with me. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, I more wanted to remember the highlights then worry about taking pictures of world-famous pictures…
Unicorn, or narwhal horns
The new underground foyer was a mess. There was a huge line, and no clear marking of where I would go, with a special ticket from Holland Pass, to skip the line. I asked at information and I got to skip to a shorter line, but still it was just the “special” people line, so there were many different kinds of special people in line, including those that did not know that it was a special people line. After I got my ticket, there wasn’t a clearly marked entrance, so I walked around the foyer again before I got into the long line to enter. I started in the medieval art section. Most notable for me from this section were these “unicorn horns”. They were part of the special altar relics at a church in the Netherlands for many years, as a holy relic. They are actually narwhal horns, so it is cool that they had them, but they did not come from a mythical creature. 
Whaler’s caps
The museum was set up in two sides- one on each side of the foyer with multiple levels. Some levels converged in a middle hall, while others didn’t. To say I got lost in there is an understatement. It was set up by time period, and included mostly Dutch art and other interesting artifacts. There were lots of jewelry and gold and silver works. For some reason these don’t appeal to me as much, so I didn’t dwell in those areas like I did in the paintings sections. One thing that did catch my attention were these whaler’s caps. The graves of 185 Dutch whaler’s and oil workers were found in Spitsbergen, which is an island up by Greenland. Each of them were buried with their own unique knitted cap. They had to be bundled up so tight against the cold that they identified each other by wearing the same pattern knitted cap each day. 
Willem II, Prince of Orange, and his bride, Mary Stuart, Anthony Van Dyck

The above painting was commissioned on the marriage of Willem II and Mary Stuart, who was a daughter of the English king. She was 9 and he was 14, which is why they look so young in this painting. They were married in London

I appreciate gold work made with shells!

The main gallery in the museum is directly over the middle foyer/walkway and covers the whole middle of one floor of the museum. The main painting in that gallery is the Night Watch by Rembrandt. I knew of this painting, but seeing it in person and seeing how HUGE it was gave me a whole new appreciation for it. There was a side exhibit explaining that when it was moved from its original location to Amsterdam Town Hall, it had to be trimmed down. That means that the painting as we have it today is missing a strip from the left hand side and the top- several feet worth of painting. Also, for years this painting was covered with a dark varnish that made it seem like a night scene. The varnish was removed in 1940, leaving the painting much lighter than before. What makes this painting special is that it is technically a portrait, but has so many background characters symbols. Instead of everyone standing still and posing, the way it was painted suggests that the subjects are moving.

The Night Watch, Rembrandt

Going to a museum by myself was refreshing for a change. I could take my time, maneuver wherever I wanted without searching for elevators, and not worry about keeping a toddler happy. It was wonderful! I took the opportunity to take a selfie with the Hall of Fame where all the famous paintings are housed.

The Hall of Fame and I

Some of my other favorites included this portrait of a little girl. The painter portrayed her as a grown lady which makes it an interesting painting. Nothing is known of her or her family, but her facial expression is priceless.

Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue, Johannes Cornelisz

As I wandered, I found a whole room of doll houses. These were not toys for little girls, but display pieces and hobbies for grown noblewomen. They collected pieces and tried to make these dollhouses as sumptuous and real as possible, including life-like dolls, food in the kitchen, and real gold fixtures.

Grown woman doll house

Lastly, I walked through the more contemporary area of the museum. There, I found several Van Gogh pieces, including an early self portrait. What I appreciate most about Van Gogh and his contemporaries is the use of bright colors in paintings. After looking at medieval and Golden Age art, the bright colors of the more modern artists was a welcome change.

Self Portrait, Van Gogh, 1887
Summer Luxuriance, Jacobus van Looy

Right at the end of the Van Gogh gallery was this beautiful painting- I just loved the bright, vibrant blues and purples and greens. After seeing most of the museum, I wandered around until I found the exit and went outside briefly to peek at the gardens. The gardens were pretty, but smaller than I was expecting.

Rijksmuseum Garden

Overall, I was glad that I picked the Rijksmuseum to visit while in Amsterdam. I figured seeing paintings from many different famous Dutch artists was better than going to the Van Gogh museum or another smaller museum. Rijksmuseum covered everything and despite a confusing layout and new foyer, I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in arts and culture of the Netherlands. This museum is a treasure trove of not only paintings, but all sorts of artifacts and pieces that are significant to the country. This truly was the state museum of the Netherlands. 


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