Rijksmuseum: The Dutch Art Temple

Grace Piney

The Rijksmuseum, known as the "Dutch Art Temple" is one of the major art galleries in the world. It holds the largest collection of art in the Netherlands.


After closing ten years for extensive renovations, the National Museum of the Netherlands, the eminent Rijksmuseum, reopened its doors with a series of celebrations presided by Queen Beatrix in one of her last official acts as sovereign.

HRH Queen Beatrix.

The Rijksmuseum, known as the “Dutch Art Temple” is one of the major art galleries in the world. It holds the largest collection of art in the Netherlands, which includes paintings by Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer, and Rembrandt. The collection was recently enriched with works from the 20th century by Mondrian, Karel Appel, and Le Corbusier. New galleries for Asian art have also been added.

The Spanish architectural firm Cruz and Ortiz was in charge of the renovations, which cost upwards of 440 million dollars. The architects worked hard to preserve the original spirit of the 19th century original building.


According to the museum, “the new presentation of the Rijksmuseum is like a journey through the history (of art) in the Netherlands, from the Middle Ages until the 20th century.” The Dutch collection is presented chronologically, and occupies four floors and 80 new exhibition rooms. Museum directors have said that the renovations sought to lighten up the structure´s brick-walled passageways, built in 1885, and to modernize the interior, taking into account the modern design trends for museums, cataloging techniques, display, and presumably, conservation and security.

The new displays werw rearranged by period, rather than subject matter. The only piece that remains in the same place is Rembrandt‘s The Night Watch (1642), located in the Hall of Honors. The original architect, Pierre Cuypers, who essentially designed the building around this luminous masterpiece, chose this location. This work is considered the greatest jewel in the Rijksmuseum, and one of the most famous paintings in the world. It has been the object of several acts of vandalism: in 1975 it was slashed 12 times, and in 1990 someone sprayed it with sulfuric acid. It is currently protected with a state-of-the-art safety device. The canvas measures 11.91 x 14.34 feet, and depicts a company of civic militia guards from Amsterdam.

The collection includes other paintings by Rembrandt, such as The Jewish Bride (1665-1669) and Self Portrait of a Young Man (1628); as well as the Vermeer‘s The Milkmaid (1660) and Woman Reading a Letter (1663). Also in the collection: Van Gogh´s Self Portrait (1887). The reopening was met with such expectation that more than 75,000 tickets were sold before the doors opened. The museum expects to welcome two million visitors every year.


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