Frequently Asked Questions about the Rijksmuseum:
Why is the the painting The Night Watch special?
Rembrandt threw all the conventions regarding a group portrait out the window when he painted The Night Watch: instead of posing, the guards are in action. They are not standing neatly in a row, either; they are mixed in with one another, which makes it difficult to identify the guards in the background. The painting can be compared to a photograph: had the photographer clicked the shutter a mere second later, the group would have looked completely different.
Wasn't The Night Watch damaged in the past?
The Night Watch has been damaged several times. The first incident was in the 18th century when pieces of the painting were snipped from the left side and the top - that way, the painting fit perfectly on the wall of its new home, the Amsterdam City Hall (now Palace) on the Dam. The second incident was in 1976, when a museum visitor took a knife to the painting. In 1985 the painting was damaged with acid.
Is Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring on display in the Rijksmuseum?
No, Girl with a Pearl Earring is not on display in the Rijksmuseum, it is hanging in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. However, the Rijksmuseum has four other paintings by Johannes Vermeer: The Love Letter, The Little Street, Woman Reading a Letter and The Kitchen Maid.
Why is it that the Rijksmuseum collection features mainly Dutch painters, and only a few foreign artists?
From the late 16th century, the Netherlands was a republic. In other words, there was no royal house that amassed an international collection, such as in Spain (Philips II) or Russia (Catharine the Great). Art buyers were citizens. They made purchases mostly in their home country, and not so much abroad. The Rijksmuseum collection is based on these private collections.
What happened to the Rijksmuseum collection during the war?
The Rijksmuseum's director at the time, Schmidt-Degener, already decided in 1939, after the mobilisation was announced, to take all of the important works of art to safety. They were moved to the national air raid shelters near Zandvoort and Heemskerk. In 1942 the works were moved again, this time to new hiding places nearby Steenwijk and Maastricht. Not all of the works were removed from the museum, however. The museum remained open to the public during the war. To learn more about this topic, see the book 'The Rijksmuseum in wartime', Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 1985 (authors: J.Baruch and L. van der Horst). Visitors may look through the book in the museum library.