The history of Amsterdam in paintings

Starting as a fishing village along the banks of the river Amstel in the 13th century, Amsterdam soon developed into an important commercial and cultural city in Europe. Its traditional founding dates back to 27 October 1275, when Count Floris of Holland granted inhabitants of Aemstelledamme (translated as “dam on the Amstel”) an exemption from tolls. The right to free passage had boosted the economy of Amsterdam and secured its further expansion.
Painting by Isaak Nickelen The Stadhuis, Amsterdam

Rapidly developing, Amsterdam was also known for its tolerance. As a result, many rich Jewish merchants fled to Amsterdam from Antwerp, after it was conquered by the Spaniards in 1585. The money they brought with them was used to finance trips around the world, which proved a tremendous commercial success, and led Amsterdam into the period of even greater prosperity. In 1602, the Dutch East India company was founded, which was to become the first multinational company in the world.

Photograph by Frederick Fiebig of a cinnamon bush in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

The Golden Age also saw two massive urban expansions of the city, which for the first time combined functionality with aesthetics. This resulted in the web of canals that had become a source of inspiration for local and foreign artists.

This was also the period of renowned Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen, whose works to this day never cease to fascinate us.
Vermeer's painting The Milkmaid Vermeer's painting Girl with a Pearl Earring
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4 thoughts on “The history of Amsterdam in paintings

  1. Visitors to Amsterdam should also take the time to visit Leiden, the hometown of Rembrandt, which is a mere 35 minute train ride from A’dam!

  2. I would note that Vermeer’s Meisje met Parel is housed not in Amsterdam, but at the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. (In at least one room in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum one can find a small reproduction of this painting and the notation that it’s in another city.)

    1. Hi Joe,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is held at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The mention of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Steen in the post was, however, in relation to the Golden Age, when Amsterdam became a thriving cultural city. If you are interested, just a couple of days ago we published a blog post about Vermeer, dedicated to his birthday.

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