Putting on the Rijks

I couldn’t wait to start exploring the Rijksmuseum. It may be incredibly difficult to spell correctly for someone whose fingers are as clumsy as mine as they stumble and drag their way across a keyboard, but the Rijksmuseum was one of the main things I was looking forward to on my trip to Amsterdam.

The Rijksmuseum and the Iamsterdam sign

As much as I enjoy finding those tiny museums that tell a quirky tale from history, like the Tulip Museum or Pipe museum, there’s something about a museum that’s so big, it needs to be capitalised as Museum. The smaller places did help me understand some of the objects by providing a bit more context.

My visit to the Tulip Museum helped me understand this painting far more than I would have been able to otherwise.

A painting of tulips
Dutch flowers! Notice the Semper Augustus in there?

 With over 1 million objects, and (previously) housed in a Royal Palace, the Rijkmuseum is one of – if not the – largest museum in the Netherlands. If I really wanted to understand things, visiting all the niche museums might be a bit of a tall order. Getting on with exploring the Rijksmuseum would make much more sense!

Fun Fact: from 2013-2014 the Rijksmuseum was the most visited museum in the country with 2.2 and 2.45 million visitor respectively.

I think the current visitor numbers for the Anne Frank House are topping that, but I’m not here to discuss numbers. I’m here to explore the Rijksmuseum, where I found unicorn horns, hilarious medieval art and a painting that is constantly referred to by the wrong name.

One of the main challenges with visiting any large museum is; where on earth do I start?

With the Rijkmuseum, that was trying to find an available locker. Backpacks aren’t allowed, you see. As practical as they are, especially if you’re on holiday and having to carry around more stuff than usual, you have to leave them somewhere. I think I might have a blog post in me about all the odd backpack rules I’ve encountered on my adventures, but that’s for another day.

Like with the TropenMuseum,TropenMuseum, we decided to start at the top and work our way down. It was a tactic that seemed to work, as that route took us backwards through art and Dutch history. In one room at the top, there was a lovely Mondrian. It was before he discovered the joys of primary colours and squares. He used greens and purples and the effect was surprisingly calming.

A Mondrian landscape
A Mondrian landscape

 Although Mondrian is nice and all that, when it comes to Dutch artists, the Rijks is all about Rembrandt.  He is almost everywhere in the museum. Here he is a young man with wild curly hair…

A self portrait of the young Rembrandt
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

One of his pieces is the bright shining jewel in the museum’s collection. It is commonly called The Night Watch, but that’s not its name. No, the name is the much catchier Militia Company of District II under the command of Captain Frank Bannick Cocq.

People admiring Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, also known as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch and The Night Watch
It isn’t even a night scene!

As you can see – it’s a crowd pleaser.

My favourite pieces in the museum were the pieces of medieval religious art. As always, I try and track down a St Sebastian or two, and the Rijks had this to offer…


Hmm I’m not sure what happened to his face, it’s rather squished and rather squashed. As a piece though, it is remarkably well-lit.

Usually I can count on a museum, especially one that has a fine array of statues, to have something that I can use to add to my collection on #Museumbums on Instagram. Alas, this was the best the Rijksmuseum had to offer.

A statue, sitting on some kind if reptile?
The closest I could find to a #MuseumBum in the whole place!

It’s not entirely clear what he’s supposed to be sitting on… any ideas?

They did however, present me with this rather fine figure…


Because who doesn’t like to *ahem* check out statues?

Let’s lighten the mood a bit.

Lookat this ascension scene for a second. Once you see it, you’ll see why I like it so very, very much.

A scene showing Christ's ascension
Look at the feet…

Bear in mind, this is an ascension scene so keep your eyes to the top of the picture. Seen it yet? I LOVE how literal the artist was in his interpretation.

What was the last thing I promised? Oh yes. Unicorn horns. Not quite though. These horns are more along the lines of Unicorn-of-the-sea. They belonged to Narwhals.

Narwhal horns
Unicorn horns?

And who doesn’t love a Narwhal?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Love this blog Jack. I visited recently and it reflects much of my experience. Thanks for #museumbum pic too, I tried to photograph that same statue from the same angle, but my camera didn’t like the lighting! Censored by my own phone! I have no idea what he’s sitting on, an angry fish?

    Also liked your point about the Tulip Museum. On the same trip I visited the National Carnival Museum in Den Bosch, prior to seeing the Heironymous Bosch exhibition. It added so much context and extra knowledge that I felt super prepared for the actual Bosch.


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