AMSTERDAM — Amid brass bands and a daytime fireworks display, the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix on Saturday officially reopened the Rijksmuseum, the country’s national museum, after a 10-year, $480 million renovation.
The museum houses the largest collection of treasures from the Netherlands’ cultural history, including works painted by Dutch masters Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn in the country’s 17th-century golden age. Then the Netherlands was a major naval power, and Amsterdam was one of the world’s most influential and wealthy cities.
The renovation by Spanish architectural firm Cruz y Ortiz sought to bring light into the courtyards at the center of the 1885 brick structure, which resembles a fairy-tale castle. Meanwhile the museum’s displays were completely redone to modern standards, with cultural items displayed alongside artwork from the same period — and sometimes even directly related to the art or artist.
For instance, one room houses paintings portraying the June 1667 Raid on the Medway, a naval battle in which the Dutch defeated the English. The room centers on an intricate model of a ship from the period more than six feet long. It displays an actual sword and goblet once owned by the victorious Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter.
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And above one doorway hangs the actual metal stern-piece from the English flagship HMS Royal Charles, which features a lion and a unicorn. De Ruyter’s forces towed the ship away during the battle, and then took it back to the Netherlands.
Only one of the 8,000 works in the Rijksmuseum’s collection returns to its original display position: Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” widely considered his greatest masterpiece. It sits at the end of the museum’s main gothic-style Gallery of Honor, acting as the symbolic altarpiece of a secular church.