Last night, we went to an Indonesian restaurant called “Tujuh Maret“. It was on a nearby street and located among several other Indonesian restaurants. The large number of Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam speaks to former Dutch colonization of Indonesia. The food was excellent, although the service was quite slow. After dinner, we retired for the evening as we had had such a long day.
This morning, we had a large breakfast provided by the hotel and then we walked to Rijksmuseum, which is devoted to the golden age of Dutch art, culture and history:
We were offered a choice of two audio guides: either a historical and formal one or a fun and informal one. I chose the historical one, thinking that they would both cover the same items. However, we later realized that they in fact did not cover all of the same works. The wisest thing to do, if we had known, would have been to have both versions. That said, the historical guide covered many more works and was probably the better choice.
We saw a number of interesting pieces in the museum. One of the obvious stars was a seventeenth-century doll’s house featuring a scale model of a Dutch mansion. All of the furniture and household items (such as silver ware and china) were made of authentic materials by actual artisans. The house of course reminded us of Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. We also saw another doll’s house which was commissioned by a woman shortly before she got married. The house seemed to portray different aspects of domestic life. We thought that perhaps the woman had commissioned the house so she could practice domestic management prior to getting married.
On an upper floor of the museum, we found the section devoted to Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vemeer. One of the pieces by Rembrandt is “Rembrandt’s Mother as Biblical Prophetess Hannah” (1631). I had previously seen this painting on the cover of Nicholas Royle’s book Uncanny: An Introduction and had wondered why the old woman’s face was not painted in detail. Today, I discovered that the focus of the painting was her lined ‘reading hand’:
I was also intrigued by a set of portraits. One featured the father dressed in solemn and conservative black. His son, who at the age of twenty was already quite fat, was dressed dandishly in bright clothes and was proudly showing off a pair of fashionable gloves. The description said that the mother had also been painted, but her portrait was now located in Dresden. We felt sorry that the family had been broken up. Lastly, I was struck throughout that all the children were painted as mini-adults. I guess at the time childhood was seen differently and people saw children as simply diminutive grown-ups. Still, in one painting, the true nature of childhood was revealed. It portrayed a winter festival in which children received gifts according to their conduct throughout the year. One child had received a kind of hockey stick and was gloating his gift unkindly to his crying elder brother, who had only received some twigs because he had been naughty. Certainly, sibling rivalry existed even then.
After the museum visit, we again strolled in the city, and this time, we paid particular attention to the canal houses. Unlike London where all the houses on the same street are often identical, the canal houses here show great individuality especially through their different gables. Apparently, people had their houses built in different styles because in the past there were no numbers and the distinct character of a house helped people identify it:
We returned to the hotel for a little while this afternoon to have a picnic (ham, cheese, croissants, chips and soft drinks) on our window latch and watch the boats pass by in the canal. What a busy day, one boat after another — people laughed and sang.