Saturday, October 29, 2011

Museum Willet-Holthuysen

Hello everybody, greetings from autumnal Amsterdam. Halloween is just around the corner, not that that means much in this city. By now we have eased into the miserable weather portion of our year, euphemistically referred to as "The Culture Season," which sounds much better than "The Crappy Season."

Hubby and I decided to enrich our lives last week with visits to Amsterdam's two preserved Golden Age canal houses,  The Museum Van Loon and Museum Willet-Holthuysen. They are both interesting to see, but if your time is limited, I would recommend the Museum Van Loon over the Willet-Holthuysen, because I think the Van Loon does a better job of evoking that era. Also, the carriage house to the Van Loon is opening any day now, and I believe it is the only example in crowded Amsterdam of a home surviving with its carriage house intact and still part of the property.

Nevertheless, this post has more to do with the Willet-Holthuysen because I have photos of it!

I stopped across the canal to get a wide shot before I went in. Now, with the thinning foliage, this is a great time to capture Amsterdam canal house architecture often obscured by leafy branches.

We entered without paying with our Museumkaarts, a must-have for any Dutch resident remotely interested in museums. These cards give you free entrance (and often a preferred place in line) to all nationally supported museums in The Netherlands. I feel compelled to note that the famed Rijksmuseum, home of the finest examples of Dutch Masters, is as of this writing still only partially open due to the extensive renovation taking place; if your goal in coming to Amsterdam is to see the Rijks, you'll want to wait a few years. If you do go into the partially-open Rijks, you will still be cheerfully charged the full amount, 12.50 euro, as if the entire exhibit was open. Bit shameful, that. But I digress.

Back to our 17th century mansion: at this writing, there is a very strange fashion exhibit meshed into this house. What the two have to do with one another is not clear, though a variety of media tools are strewn throughout this elegant home. These ridiculous mannequins and photo boards, and in one case, a towel(?!), were anachronistic to the Willet-Holthuysen and greatly detracted from the experience.
A towel, considered edgy art, I suppose

Trying to find any artistic justification for pairing this 1960s style sheath with a tasteful tableau from a 19th century salon just hurts my brain. The bad angle must be because I was holding my nose as I took the photo.

 A white mannequin draped in a zippered potato sack greeted me at the lovely alcove on the first elevated floor.

As a whole this is not going to be one of the most impressive houses you've ever seen, but there are loads of details and furnishings worth a gander. The house's last residents were Abraham Willet and his wife Louisa Holthuysen. They were both children of wealthy, educated families who held many soirees in their fine home. The couple traveled frequently and collected objects from all over Europe. They did not have offspring. They left the house, its contents and its sizeable art collection to the city of Amsterdam in 1895, on condition that it become a public museum.

I thoroughly enjoyed the collection of silver miniatures on display. That basket in the middle is the size of a walnut. I thought it a terrific bonus that I could take pics, but that's true in many museums here.

Museum Willet-Holthuyson
Herengracht 605
1017 CE Amsterdam, Netherlands
020 5231870

Hours: Sun, Sat 11am–5pm; Mon-Fri 10am–5pm
Transit: Rembrandtplein


such detailed dishes

This gold and turquoise decanter is quite a stunner. Note the rampant lions, a figure used a lot in The Netherlands. The rampant lion is both part of the Royal Family's coat of arms and part of the National crest.

This exquisite marble figure must have been a favorite of Abraham Willet's, as it is in featured by his side in many painted portraits.

The Willet-Holthuysen couple were enthusiastic art supporters. My jaw dropped when I saw Lousa's financial accounts. One small rough painting of a dog was purchased for around 6,000 euros, another impressive still life was 42,000 euros (converted here from the original Dutch guilders). There were many purchases like this. Back in the late 1800s, those were princely sums, indeed.

nice place to compose a letter
I enjoyed the art collection a great deal.  Unfortunately, the credits were spare and confusing to follow, so I'm unable to name all the artists. The picture on the right is typical in that many 18th century Dutch had their collection of oddities painted. I guess it's like taking a photo of your cool stuff today.
Not a bird cage there above the chair; it's cleverly painted tiles.

The kitchen is my favorite room in any house, but it's especially fun to see the ones in these grand homes; it balances the house, this part.The upper floors of finery always seem museumy to me, but here I can truly imagine myself living.

Another tile bird cage, this one close enough to capture.

All in all, I'd say there are worse ways to spend the afternoon than wandering hallways of a restored Golden Age canal house. The bizarre fashion exhibit ends on November 13th, so either hurry or pause, but do consider that event.

1 comment:

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