The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the national museum of art and history of the Netherlands. The current museum building was designed in 1876 by Pierre Cuypers and contains neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance decorations with allusions to Dutch art history. Work embarked on a major program of renovation and expansion in 2003, after which the upgraded museum reopened in 2013.
The collection comprises more than one million objects, about 8,000 of which are on permanent exhibition. The permanent display combines Dutch art, applied arts and history from around 800 to the present, with international accents.
Ten fifteenth-century figures of weepers from the tomb of Isabella of Bourbon by Renier van Thienen (attrib.), Jan van Scorel’s Mary Magdalene, and Lucas van Leyden’s The Dance around the Golden Calf from the sixteenth century are among the highlights of early Flemish and Dutch art in the collection.
The museum has more than 2,000 paintings from the seventeenth century in its collection, including paintings by all the major painters of that period. Absolute masterpieces of the collection such as The Night Watch by Rembrandt, Vermeer’s Milkmaid and The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn have permanent places in the Gallery of Honor.
The Print Room has a large collection of approximately 700,000 works on paper. Its highlights include the prints by Lucas van Leyden, such as his Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian I, as well as numerous etchings and drawings by Rembrandt (e.g. The Three Trees). The collection of drawings is also significant with works from the Dutch seventeenth century, as well as French and Italian works. Both the drawings and prints collection are more international in character than the paintings collection.
The applied arts collection includes important objects such as the monumental cupboard by Herman Doomer (ca. 1635-45) and the ewer that Adam van Vianen made for the Amsterdam guild of silversmiths in 1614, which is universally regarded as the greatest masterpiece in the auricular style. Like the print room collection, the applied arts collection has a more international character with highlights such as the work of French furniture maker André-Charles Boulle and an extensive collection of Meissen porcelain.
Art and history have always gone hand in hand in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, and although the history department has its own collection policy, art and history are often linked in the permanent display as well as in individual objects.
Related CODART publications
Maud van Suylen and Manon van der Mullen, “On the Largest Paper: The Exhibition XXL Paper at the Rijksmuseum”, CODARTfeatures, July 2022.
Huigen Leeflang, “Prints, Drawings and Photography in the Renewed Rijksmuseum”, CODARTfeatures, October 2013.
Femke Diercks, “Decorative Arts in the Rijksmuseum: The Collections and their Collectors”, CODARTfeatures, October 2013.