We believe art is bringing consolation and joy in difficult times. As an active art supporter, ArtWizard is starting a series of articles about the world museums that you can visit online. We will present them one by one as each one of them has its own particularities and ways to exhibit works online. This week read about “The Rijksmuseum”.
Home to many masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age, the Rijksmuseum – The Museum of the Netherlands - in Amsterdam is an iconic museum that offers a Google Street View tour – Arts and Culture that will make you feel like you're actually strolling through its meticulously decorated halls. Its world-famous masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age include the Milkmaid by Vermeer and Rembrandt's Night Watch. The Rijksmuseum itself is also a masterpiece. The collection is presented in a stunning building with amazing interior design. In 80 galleries 8,000 objects tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history, from the Middle Ages to Piet Mondrian. Every year, over 2.5 million visitors travel through the ages and experience a feeling of beauty and sense of time.
The Rijksmuseum’s collection illustrates the history of Holland, from the Middle Ages to the present. It showcases art and history in an international context. Some works the visitor should definitely see include the Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn’s most well-known painting. The Night Watch is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings. The painting is famous for its colossal size (363cm ×437cm), the dramatic use of light and shadow (a technique called tenebrism, used to add drama to an image through a spotlight effect and was popular in Broque painting) and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military group portrait. The painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age. It depicts the eponymous group moving out, led by Captain Frans Bannink Cocq (dressed in black, with a red ribbon) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white ribbon). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd: the two men in the center (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the woman in the centre-left background carrying a chicken. Behind them, the company's colors are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen. The figures are almost full-size. One of the most interesting facts about this painting is that it was commissioned around 1639 by Captain Banning Cocq and seventeen members of his Kloveniers (the city guards). Eighteen names appear on a shield, painted circa 1715, in the center-right background. A total of 34 characters appear in the painting and Rembrandt was paid the large sum of 1,600 guilders for the painting. The painting was commissioned to hang in the banquet hall of the newly built Kloveniersdoelen (Musketeers' Meeting Hall) in Amsterdam. The visitor must also see the museum’s Gallery of Honor in which paintings from great masters are displayed, including, besides more painting of Rembrandt, also Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Johannes Vermeer, thus combining the best of the Golden Age Dutch art in one place. The Gallery of Honor also hosts the famous painting by Vermeer, The Milkmaid. The visitor can see her as part of the Google virtual tour. A maidservant pours milk, entirely absorbed in her work. Except for the stream of milk, everything else is still. Vermeer took this simple everyday activity and made it the subject of an impressive painting – the woman stands like a statue in the brightly lit room. Vermeer also had an eye for how light falls onto the objects, by means of hundreds of colorful dots plays over the surface of objects. The paintings stands along another famous Vermeer painting – Woman reading a letter. Enjoying a quiet, private moment, this young woman is absorbed in reading a letter in the morning light. She is still wearing her blue night jacket. All of the colours in the composition are secondary to its radiant lapis lazuli blue. Vermeer recorded the effects of light with extraordinary precision. Particularly innovative is his rendering of the woman’s skin with pale grey, and the shadows on the wall using light blue. Another famous painting that can be seen online is the Jeremiah Lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, by Rembrandt van Rijn. The crestfallen Prophet Jeremiah rests his weary, old head on his hand. He laments Jerusalem going up in flames – in the background – whose destruction he had prophesied. Rembrandt heightened the sense of drama with powerful contrasts of light and dark. He derived the prophet’s bearded head from one of the old men he often etched around this time.
The Dutch life of the Golder Age can also be discovered by exploring the centuries-old doll’s houses, the oldest of which dates from 1676, as well as the great collection of Delfts Blue pottery, ranging to all objects of a daily life – from tea sets, tiles, vases etc. The Rijksmuseum owns approximately 7250 ceramic objects, subdivided into porcelain (more than 4600 pieces), majolica (app. 400), faience (app. 1750) and stoneware (app. 850). The difference between these types of earthenware has to do with the material they are made of, or manner of production. For instance, majolica is a type of earthenware covered with an opaque white lead glaze and then decorated on the outside with metal-oxide glazes, often in vivid colours. Faience earthenware is covered on both sides with a layer of tin glaze. Because of the constitution of its clay stoneware can be fired at a high temperature (1200°C) without losing its shape. And porcelain, which is made of kaolin or porcelain clay, is fired at an even higher temperature.
The Rijksmuseum has three dolls' houses that provide a detailed view of how affluent houses were once furnished. The most famous was collected by the wealthy Petronella Oortman of Amsterdam. In the 17th century, dolls' houses were not toys, but they were a hobby, the equivalent for women of the collection cabinets kept by men. What makes Petronella Oortman’s dolls' house so unusual is that all the pieces were made precisely to scale, in the same way and using the same materials as their regular counterparts. Petronella ordered her miniature porcelain from China and commissioned cabinetmakers, glassblowers, silversmiths, basket-weavers and artists to furnish her dolls' house: an extremely expensive hobby. The second 17th-century dolls' house, which belonged to Petronella Dunois, contains ready-made furniture, including a large amount of miniature silver. In the third dolls' house, made in the 18th century, it is the exterior which is especially interesting: rather than built as a cupboard, it is actually a model of a real house.
All of those can be seen in a virtual tour of Rijksmuseum.