The luxury of having an Amsterdam blog means I can delve deep and instead of simply having the standard blogger list of “10 best things to do in Amsterdam”, I can recommend not just museums, but particular rooms in museums or specific artworks in rooms in museums.
And today I want to do just that by recommending The Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century at the Hermitage in Amsterdam’s Hoftuin.
Although the museum is an offshoot of the world famous Hermitage in St Petersburg, it is somewhat off the beaten museum track in Amsterdam. And whilst that is not entirely surprising given it sometimes has a rather odd/eclectic collection of touring exhibits from the Russian gallery, it also has a semi-permanent exhibition which in my opinion is one of Amsterdam’s greatest hidden treasures.
Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century is the world’s largest collection of group portraits. The thirty stunning and monumental masterpieces, loaned from the Rijks and Amsterdam Museums are displayed alongside other treasures such as Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson.
And these portraits, the “brothers and sisters” of Rembrandt’s infamous Night Watch, are displayed in one of Amsterdam’s most stunning museum galleries.
Here are regents and civic guards. Merchants and militia. Men and women from a variety of social and religious backgrounds who made Amsterdam a thriving metropolis and whose legacy continues today.
All wealthy enough to be captured by some of the greatest painters of the era.
Best of all, on each of my visits to this truly magnificent hall, I have been surrounded by hundreds of 17th century citizens and at the same time completely alone.
It’s sometimes hard to understand why people jostle in the Rijks to catch a glimpse of The Night Watch and yet so few people seem to come here to see what is, in many senses, an even more powerful display.
Both the main gallery and the ante rooms are Dutch-dark and imposing, Rembrandt’s gruesome “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman” is displayed in one of these side chambers along with the captivating “Osteology lesson of Dr. Sebastiaen Egbertsz” by Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy.
I am always floored by this place and could spend hours here, transported back to the Golden Age.
So next time, why not skip the queues and crowds at the remarkable Rijks and head to the Hermitage where you can turn back the clock and spend time with the guildsmen and women who shaped this city of dreams.
Combine it with a wander through the Hoftuin, come after brunch at our favourite Dignita or before remembering another set of Amsterdam’s citizens at the National Holocaust Memorial of Names. But whatever you do, make time to visit this magnificent gallery. Not enough people do.