Five Best-Kept Artistic Secrets of the Rijksmuseum

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The Rijksmuseum is one of the cultural attractions you must visit as part of your private Amsterdam walking tours program. Most people who visit its galleries are absorbed in paintings such as “The Night Watch” and “The Milkmaid”. These are just two of the millions of historical objects and artworks housed in the Amsterdam museum. It has more treasures to offer you than these popular works of art. There are works, which people do not pay attention to when they are on their way to the galleries housing the must-see pieces. Whether you are a frequent visitor or first-time visitor, you will find lots of surprises in this guide to the Dutch museum.

Aquamanile in the Form of a Lion with a Mounted Female Figure

At first glance, the women figure sitting atop a tree upon the back of a lion will look like a standard sculpture. However, look closer, and you will see a tiny spout in the left ear of the lion. This is no sculpture, but it is a special sort of medieval ewer, known as aquamanile. Water is filled into this object through an opening on the lion’s head, closed by a lid. Visitors will be surprised to see the water that flows out of the ear of the animal.

Aquamanilia were used sometimes to wash hands before dinner in events, such as weddings, and priests used these during mass. These are clearly items to show off.

Portrait of an African Man

This portrait by Jan Jansz Mostaert is the lone individual painting of an African person of color. So, it holds a special meaning to people of color, in particular. It is unclear who this man is, but his attire suggests that he would be someone of a big position. Historian Ernst van den Boogaart hinted that it might be an archer named Christophle le More, who was part of Charles V’s elite army.

Those of African descent, except this one, are not there in European portraits of the 1500’s. The special thing concerning this painting is that it is that of an individual, exuding a proud and dignified attitude. Being able to encounter an African from early Netherlandish history, is encouraging for people of color.

Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt

On display at the Tapestry Gallery are 6 volumes of 750 watercolor pictures, making up the Historia Naturalis encyclopedia. This amazing compendium, loaned from a private artwork collection, was compiled for Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II by his physician Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt.

When the emperor passed away, leaving several bills unpaid, De Boot took every watercolor picture back to his homeland. In his will, De Boot left these to his nephews, who were permitted to sell all save for the drawings of animals, flowers and birds. These, De Boot instructed, were to stay together and pass on to the male heir of each generation. They did precisely that for almost 250 years. Since then, these have changed hands, except by inheritance, just two other times.

Pendant in the shape of Death

Most visitors wander through the museum galleries looking at works by Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt, unaware of its treasures at the Special Collections gallery. Among ship models, weapons, textile, glass and ceramics, a collection of jewelry pieces is on view on the ground level gallery.

People overlook this pendant because it stands at just above one inch tall. This pendant is personified as a skeleton that holds a scythe, and it is a memento mori. This means it is a reminder for its wear of his or her mortality. Observe closely, and you will be in awe of the workmanship on display of both the enameller and goldsmith.

A cachet or seal is on the base of this object, and it is not easy to see. In reverse writing, it reads thus: “atent leure”, which reminds the wearer to be wary of time.

Landscape in Brazil

The Dutch painter, printmaker and draughtsman Frans Jansz Post made this painting. He, alongside Albert Eckhout, became a famous painter to have depicted the colony of the Dutch in Brazil. The governor general of Dutch Brazil, Johan Maurits van Nassau commissioned Frans Post, who stayed in Brazil for many years. In Holland, he settled in the city of Haarlem and kept painting and selling such “exotic” Brazilian landscape paintings.

This is his largest painting, offering an impressive view of a Brazilian river landscape. The shape and structure of its frame resemble that of the frames of windows used in Brazilian architecture. It gives you the false impression of looking through one window to a plantation below. It is uncommon for such artworks to depict the real activities of the colonized Dutch people, so it is a big painting in the museum collection.

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