New-look Rijksmuseum puts Dutch masterpieces into context

Thu Apr 4, 2013 5:19pm EDT
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By Sara Webb

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch national museum reopens this month after a decade-long overhaul in which nearly everything has been changed except for the setting of its most famous painting.

Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch" will be the only work still hanging in the same place when Queen Beatrix officially opens the Rijksmuseum on April 13 after a 375 million euro ($482.02 million) renovation to a treasure trove of Dutch art.

"We've had a complete transformation, everything is new," General Director Wim Pijbes said at a press preview on Thursday. "The only thing that hasn't changed is the place of 'The Night Watch'."

Rembrandt's large masterpiece shows Amsterdam's civic guard setting off on a march and is approached along a "hall of fame" hung with works such as Johannes Vermeer's "Woman Reading a Letter", and "The Merry Drinker" by Frans Hals, as well as opulent displays of fruit and flowers.

The opening will be one of the queen's last official duties before she abdicates, showing off the country's art, its rich history as a naval power and society of merchants.

Many of the prize pieces in the collection of 8,000 works are now displayed in broader context, with related paintings, furniture, silver and ceramics arranged in close proximity to each other as part of the museum's new layout.

Rembrandt's portraits of a wealthy lady in a delicate lace ruff and a man wearing an exotic turban hang close to a portrait of Rembrandt by his friend, the artist Jan Lievens, with whom he shared a studio.

Nearby are works by another friend the silversmith Johannes Lutma and an oak cupboard inlaid with ebony and mother-of-pearl by Herman Doomer, whose work Rembrandt admired and whose portrait he painted.   Continued...

The renovated exterior of the Dutch Rijksmuseum, which will be reopened after nearly 10 years, is seen in Amsterdam April 2, 2013. The Rijksmuseum, after a decade of rebuilding, renovation and restoration, will open to the general public on April 13, 2013, according to the media release. Picture taken April 2, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Kooren