Afternoon at the Rijksmuseum

(pic - Story) Rijksmuseum - Title

Well, I’ve actually written some posts on my other blog site on the Rijksmuseum, but a part of me felt that maybe I should also bring some of the artwork over here as well, particularly since it is a place that I have visited on my travels. Then again, when I have been to plays, and art exhibitions, those things tend to end up on my other blog, along with a heap of computer and other technical stuff. However, since I believe that there are probably a number of art lovers following me over here, I might as well give you a but of a taste of it as well (though you can always go over to my other blog if your are interested).

Yeah, the Rijksmuseum is pretty big, but not as big as the Louve, namely because the Louve does happen to hold the record for being the world’s largest museum (though I am sure somebody is going to come along sooner or later and steal that title from it, most likely somebody in China). In fact, it pretty much took us an entire afternoon to explore, well, most of the place, though on the lower levels we pretty much breezed through, if only so we could get to the impressionists before the place closed. Actually, when we first turned up to buy tickets, it was about an hour before they closed, and we were advised that there was no way we could do the museum in an hour. Fortunately, the Van Gogh Museum is open late, so we just went and spent our time there, and came back another day (after buying our tickets mind you, so we didn’t have to wait in line).

The thing that I found annoying with the Rijksmuseum was that it was actually rather difficult to get around. In fact, on one occasion, to get to one part that I wanted to get to, we had to take an elevator down to the basement, walk through the basement, and up the other end. That wouldn’t have been a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact that it meant that my photographs ended up being completely out of whack. The thing is that the museum is divided into periods, as opposed to the Louvre where it is divided into artistic styles – there you will have sculptures in one area, and paintings in another, though they are also subdivided into periods as well. This is not the case here, as they are all clumped into periods, and you simply cannot always walk from one period to another.

However, enough of the layout of the museum, because the reason I am here is to talk about the art, and to share some of the artistic experiences that I had while wandering through here.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - laocoon

This sculpture, which stands out the front of the Museum, is actually a brass copy, made in Rome, of an ancient original. It depicts the Trojan priest Laocoon, and his sons as he struggles with a sea serpent. The creator of this artwork is unknown, but was made for a Dutch aristocrat and was placed in his front garden, before being moved to stand here out the front of the museum. I actually quite like these types of scupltures, because in a way they give us a visual image of an ancient myth. In this instance, it is a vision of the myth created by the ancients themselves.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - euterpe

This is Euterpe, the muse of music and lyrical poetry, which is why she is sitting there holding a flute (I believe flutes were much more common back in those days). This statue was created by the sculpture Fransesco Rigghetti, and is based on an ancient original that now sits in Newbury Hall in England. This particular sculpture was commissioned by the banker Henry Hope, for his country estate near Haarlam. Once again, this image sits out the front of the museum.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - inspectors of the collegium

This is Cornelius Troost’s first group painting, and it was an instant hit. The painting is called Inspectors of the Collegium Medicum. Basically the Collegium Medicum, or College of Medicine, as where the Dutch doctors would meet and discuss, well, medical stuff. This painting is of one of the meetings of the college, and it is interesting that even back in days of the Golden Age of the Netherlands, doctors were still forming into colleges. Then again, doctors all form into colleges these days based on their specialisation.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - finding of moses

Ironically, or probably not, this painting is by Moyses van Wtenbrouck and is called ‘The Finding of Moses’. Apparently the scene is in Egypt, though you could probably be forgiven if you are scratching your head wondering how I deduced that. In fact, unless you knew the title of the painting, you probably wouldn’t even have any idea of what it is about, especially considering that Moses is literally hidden behind all of the other figures. Oh, and apparently you can also see the Sphinx, or what is supposed to be the Sphinx, namely because I doubt the painter had even been to Egypt and seen it.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - proverbs

These are a collection of small, inexpensive prints by Claes Janz Visscher. Visscher was famous for his maps, and also wall murals, but he also reached out to the ordinary people, the ones that might not have been able to afford the grand paintings that many of the artists created. These prints are simply known as The Proverbs, and no doubt they were designed to help the less educated understand what it means to be part of society.  The ones above have the simple phrase, wretched folk, wretched senses, inscribed underneath.

(pic - art) ledertz - table clock in shape of a tower

This is actually just a table clock. Well no, it is a little fancier than your standard, every day table clock. First of all it is shaped to look like the clock tower in Strasbourg which was built in the 16th century, and it does a little bit more than simply telling you the time. In fact, it will tell you the day, the month, the year, the phases of the moons, and the positions of the constellations. Wow, this this is almost as good as my smart phone, though it looks quite a lot nicer. Oh, and this was also made by a sculptor name Richard Ledertz.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - incredulity of thomas

This painting, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, is called the Incredulity of Thomas. For those familiar with the Gospels, Thomas was the disciple that refused to believe that Christ had risen from the dead, unless he basically saw him in the flesh, and also played around with his wounds. Well, this is what he happens to be doing here. In fact we have him sticking his finger into Christ’s chest wound. Thomas does receive a lot of flak over the fact that he doubted, but the reality is that he is pretty much like many of us, who really need more evidence of Christ’s claims than simply relying on blind faith.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - massacre of innocents

This is called The Massacre of Innocents and is based on the story of Herod, who, fearing that somebody was going to overthrow him, ordered the murder of every child under the age on two in the vicinity of Bethlehem. This painting, by Cornelius van Haarlam, seeks to capture the horror and the brutality of the event, painting it as if it were some nightmare, one of those nightmares that it is impossible to awaken from. In a way it confronts us not only with the brutality to the human condition, but the lengths some people will go to to stamp out this Christian message.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - venus & adonis

Bartholemew Spangler captures a completely different side of the human condition with his painting called Venus and Adonis. The story goes that Adonis wanted to go hunting, but Venus, his lover, wanted him to stay, fearing that he would come to harm. Well, it turns out that her fears were well founded since when Adonis went a hunting, he was killed by a boar. This painting was actually copied from a much earlier one, painting in the 10th Century. Notice how the details seem to reflect the style of the earlier art form, yet still captures the realism of art in the 16th Century.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - abduction of an emperor

This painting is called The Allegory of the Abdication of the Emperor. The emperor, seated in the centre on his throne, is Charles V, who at the time was one of the most powerful people in Europe, since he ruled not only the Holy Roman Empire, but also Spain and its territories. However, he is ill and dying, so he divides his kingdom by giving the Holy Roman Empire to his son Ferdinand on the left, and he gives Spain and the Netherlands to his son Phillip on the right. Mind you, this act would result in the revolt of the Netherlands against Spain, which it turn created the Republic.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - amsterdam drapers

When I first laid eyes on this painting I was astounded. Not surprisingly considering that this painting is actually by the master himself – Rembrandt. This one is called ‘Wardens of the Amsterdam Drapers’. Notice how they are all looking up in surprise, almost as if we have walked in on them during some important discussions. This is a technique used by Rembrandt to not only capture our attention but to literally make us a part of the painting. This is only one example of his incredible skill.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum - collectors cabinet

This work is called a Collector’s Cabinet with a Miniature Apothecary. All of the little jars in this cabinet are meant to contain various medicines for curing a multitude of ailments. In a way it is like that room you see at the back of the chemists where they prepare the various drugs (though that is probably more a store room). Cabinets like this would have been used by the chemists of the day, but it also seems as if it is supposed to be portable (to an extent – I’m not sure if you can really carry it). However, noting that this is a ‘Collector’s Cabinet’ this is probably more for somebody to store their collections.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - adoration of the magi

The above is an altarpiece by Pieter Aertsen and is called the Adoration of the Magi. The work is known as a triptych, meaning that it has three panels. The version in the Rijksmuseum only has the middle panel, however this version, which I found on the internet, has a the side panels. Each of the panels depict one of the magi (following the tradition that there were only three), and the centre panel has the oldest one. Here they are visiting the baby Jesus and handing him gifts.

(pic - story) rijksmuseum 4 - night's watch

What better painting to finish off this post than Rembrandt’s Night’s Watch. This is a huge painting which literally dominates an entire wall of a room that is literally dedicated to it (though of course there are other paintings in this room as well). In a way it is one of those paintings that really needs to explanation, and it is certainly one that is worth traveling to Amsterdam to see for yourself.

Creative Commons License
Afternoon at the Rijksmuseum by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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