If you happen to visit Amsterdam and you enjoy admiring fine art, then you should visit Amsterdam South because here you can find several popular museums.
Museum Square is lined with many Museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, two of the most popular museums in the Netherlands with well over 2 million yearly visitors.
While the Van Gog Museum is dedicated to the works of Vincent van Gogh, the Rijksmuseum has the most extensive collection of Dutch Old Masters on display, including works by Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most famous paintings at the Rijksmuseum, Dutch treasures that you simply have to see when you’re in Amsterdam.
1. The Night Watch – Rembrandt van Rijn
- Date created: 1642
- Dimensions: 363 × 437 centimeters (142.9 × 172 inches)
The Night Watch can easily be described as the epitome of Dutch Golden Age paintings. It’s considered to be the most famous painting in the collection of the Amsterdam Museum, although it’s mostly on display at the Rijksmuseum.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was a uniquely gifted Dutch painter who lived at the height of the most remarkable period in Dutch history. Although the dark composition appears to be a night scene, it’s a military group portrait capturing a moment during the daytime.
2. The Milkmaid – Johannes Vermeer
- Date created: 1657-1658
- Dimensions: 45.5 × 41 centimeters (17.87 × 16.12 inches)
The Milkmaid is one of those paintings that could be used to describe the oeuvre of a particular artist, in this case, Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). It depicts an ordinary scene in Vermeer’s house as we can see a kitchen maid pouring milk to make bread pudding.
A large number of Vermeer’s paintings, a man who solely dedicated himself to his art but still left only behind fewer than 50 paintings, depict people inside his own house. Many of these perform simple domestic tasks such as which we can see in this delicate little work of art.
3. Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen – Frans Hals
- Date created: 1622
- Dimensions: 140 × 166.5 centimeters (55 × 65.6 inches)
The Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen depicts a rich trader named Isaac Massa together with his young bride Beatrix van der Laen. Massa was a seasoned traveler and diplomat who often visited Russia on various missions during the Dutch Golden Age.
Frans Hals was a renowned portraitist during this period in history and defined portraiture in the 17th century. Many of his works included wedding portraits like this one and he was in high demand throughout his life, living and working from his studio in Haarlem, a city near Amsterdam.
4. The Happy Family – Jan Steen
- Date created: 1668
- Dimensions: 110.5 × 141 centimeters (43.5 × 56 inches)
The Happy Family is also known as “As the Old Sing, So shall the Young Pipe,” and is one of the typical genre scenes painted by Dutch Golden Age painter Jan Steen (1626-1679). It depicts a happy 17th-century who is listening to the old head of the family as he is singing.
The old man enjoyed having a drink and the deeper meaning behind the painting, as reflected in its alternative title, is that the younger generation will copy the behavior of their parents and grandparents.
5. Winter Landscape with Skaters – Hendrick Avercamp
- Date created: 1608
- Dimensions: 77.3 × 131.9 centimeters (30.4 × 51.9 inches)
Winter Landscape with Skaters is one of the greatest works in the oeuvre of Hendrick Avercamp, a Dutch painter who specialized in winter landscapes. He was one of the first landscape artists of the 17th century as well.
This work was produced while the artist was still in his early twenties, making it a defining painting in his career. It depicts a large number of figures who are enjoying themselves on the ice of a frozen river. Numerous other figures can be seen doing their daily chores.
6. Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard – Bartholomeus van der Helst
- Date created: 1648
- Dimensions: 232 × 547 centimeters (91 × 215 inches)
Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard is officially known as “Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster” and is another monumental work of art. Just like the Night Watch, it’s owned by the Amsterdam Museum but on display at the Rijksmuseum.
What’s remarkable about this particular work is that most of the depicted members of the civic guard depicted in this painting have been identified. Many of the depicted objects have been preserved as well. The Peace of Münster was an agreement between the Unified Netherlands and the Spanish Crown in the year 1648.
7. The Holy Kinship – Geertgen tot Sint Jans
- Date created: 1495
- Dimensions: 100 × 70 centimeters (39 × 28 inches)
The Holy Kinship is a painting created in the late 15th century by the talented Renaissance artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans (1465-1495), a man who died young while he was still in his twenties. He is also known as “Geertgen van Haarlem,” a reference to the city he lived and worked.
The painting depicts a scene taking place in a church and we can see the Virgin Mary, Saint Elizabeth, and Saint John the Baptist. Behind the central figures, we can see 3 future followers of Jesus Christ, Simon, Jacob, and John, who pour wine, a reference to the Eucharist.
8. Morning Ride on the Beach – Anton Mauve
- Date created: 1876
- Dimensions: 43.7 × 68.6 centimeters (17.2 × 27.0 inches)
The diversity of paintings at the Rijksmuseum is emphasized by the fact that you can find both Renaissance paintings created in the late 15th century, and Realism paintings created in the late 19th century.
Morning Ride on the Beach was painted by Realism artist Anton Mauve, a prominent member of the Hague School, a group of artists who worked in The Hague between 1860 and 1890. The use of light to depict the typical beach landscape in the Netherlands is of the highest quality.
9. The Jewish Bride – Rembrandt van Rijn
- Date created: 1665 – 1669
- Dimensions: 121.5 × 166.5 centimeters (47.8 × 65.6 inches)
The Jewish Bride was named as such in the early 19th century. An art historian believed that it depicted a Jewish father who hands over a necklace to his daughter. This isn’t accepted anymore but the title of the work stuck.
The true identity of the depicted couple remains unknown until today, as is the exact time it was completed. Multiple suggestions have been made, including the son of Rembrandt, Titus, with his new bride, while others suggest that it depicts a couple from the Old Testament such as Abraham and Sarah.
10. The Little Street – Johannes Vermeer
- Date created: 1657-1658
- Dimensions: 54.3 × 44 centimeters (21.4 × 17 inches)
Realistic paintings such as the Little Street are the closest we’ll get to being transported back to the 17th century. The brick surface of the houses in the street in his hometown of Delft was produced with the delicate finesse that has made the artist world-famous.
This work is only 1 of 3 paintings that the artist created of Delft, the other ones being “View of Delft” and “House Standing in Delft.” The latter has been lost over the centuries, making The Little Street one of the most intriguing paintings at the Rijksmuseum today.