Rijksmuseum, A Sense of Beauty and Time

The Collection

The Rijkmuseum’s presentation is a journey through Dutch history, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The story of the Netherlands will be presented in an international context in chronological order, divided across four floors and 80 galleries.

More than 8,000 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, silver, porcelain, delftware, furniture and objects from Dutch art and history are presented alongside each other for the very first time, allowing visitors to experience a sense of beauty and time.

The Special Collections are an exception, as is the rich collection of Asian art, which is separately on display in a new Asian Pavilion.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1100-1600)        

By the early Middle Ages the Christian faith had infiltrated the fabric of European society, and art and religion had become inseparable. During the Renaissance period (approximately 1400-1600) a renewed interest in classical antiquity led to the flowering of the arts, literature and science in Europe. The Reformation and the rise of Humanism turned the medieval world-view upside down.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the Netherlands and Europe are presented in the Rijksmuseum under sections including Christian Art, Emperor, Nobility and Citizenry, and Renaissance in Italy and the Netherlands. Gold and silver church treasures, delicate religious sculptures, early panel painting, large-scale sculptures, complex altarpieces, objects by silver and goldsmiths, delicate ivory carvings, coloured majolica, Venetian glass and classical bronze statues from the Rijksmuseum collection will all be presented together here.

The Golden Age (1600-1700)

More than 30 galleries are dedicated to the glory of the Golden Age, when the young mercantile republic led the world in trade, science, military exploits and the arts. At the heart of the museum is the spectacular, restored Gallery of Honour, where world-famous masterpieces by Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt will be shown. The Gallery of Honour leads visitors to the dedicated space created for Rembrandt’s greatest masterpiece: The Night Watch.

The first half of the Golden Age is marked by the birth of the Republic, with sections of the museum focused on themes including Mannerism and Caravaggism, Flemish Influences, The Struggle for Power in the Young Republic, Specialisms in Painting, The Young Rembrandt, The Netherlands Overseas and Nova Zembla.

The second half of the Golden Age display begins by showcasing The Netherlands as a Maritime Power. This is followed by subjects such as Dutch Painters in Italy, Citizens in Power, The Town House, William and Mary and Art of the French Court.

The 18th century (1700-1800)

In the 18th century, the Netherlands no longer held a position of great power on the world stage.  The region’s wealthy citizens were spending their money, earned in the 17th Century, on property and their interiors. The 18th century is the period of refinement and the development of good taste. The interior is primarily represented in the Rijksmuseum with virtuoso arts and crafts and portraits of people.

The 18th century collection takes visitors on a journey covering topics such as Citizens and Regents, Rococo in the Netherlands, Stadtholder William IV, The Ottoman Court, Art of the European Courts, The Netherlands Overseas and The Enlightenment.

The 19th century (1800-1900)

In the 19th century, the current monarchy was founded and major scientific discoveries including photography were made, accelerating modernisation in the region. Painting flourished with major innovations in terms of subject matter and style as the century progressed.

The Rijksmuseum 19th century galleries cover key topics from this period such as The Battle of Waterloo, King William I, Painting and Sculpture (1800-1830), Art of the European Courts (1800-1850), Romanticism in the Netherlands, Historism, The Netherlands Overseas (Japan, Suriname and the Dutch East Indies), The Hague School, Amsterdam Impressionists and Van Gogh and his Contemporaries.

The 20th century (1900-2000)

The 20th century galleries are a new addition to the Rijksmuseum. Paintings, furniture, photography, posters, films, an aeroplane from the Rijksmuseum collection, and important loans from museums at home and abroad, paint a picture of Dutch art and history in the 20th century.

The galleries showcasing the 20th century cover major issues of the period, including Man and Machine, Freedom and Structure.

Asian Art

The Asian art collection will be presented in a new pavilion made of stone and glass and surrounded by water, designed by architects Cruz y Ortiz. The pavilion provides two floors of space for reflection. Organised by country of origin, approximately 350 objects will be on display from China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Thailand from 2000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. The presentation will be changed regularly.

Special Collections

The Special Collections include well-known and unusual objects from arts and crafts, science and national history. These are complete collections of miniature silver, musical instruments, national relics, armour, naval models, and a large number of other ship models.

Alternating presentations of drawings, prints, photos and fashion
Every three months, a new presentation of drawings and prints will be displayed in print galleries that form part of the sections dedicated to The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the 17th century, the 18th century and the 19th century. The 20th century galleries will showcase a revolving presentation of photography. Meanwhile, the Special Collections will be home to a new display from the fashion collection every six months.

Cuypers Library
The magnificent 19th century Cuypers Library is the oldest and largest art library in the Netherlands, and has been restored to its original condition following intensive restoration work. The grand reading room of the library will be open for the public to admire for the first time from the opening of the museum in April. Here, visitors and art historians alike can immerse themselves in the Rijksmuseum collection, with iPads and free Wi-Fi enabling people to visit the museum’s online platform of digitised works. The library is home to a vast collection of books, journals and auction catalogues about art and history.

New acquisitions and restorations
With the support of businesses, funds and private donors, hundreds of new objects and works of art have been acquired over the last ten years, of which more than 100 are being showcased in the museum at the time of the reopening. The Rijksmuseum was also able to carefully study and restore almost the entire collection of works featured in the new presentation.