After a night's sleep we awoke to a light snow which melted off before we hit the trainsit to Schipol Airport. We boarded a bus that took us directly to the Rijksmuseum. Last time we were here it was under renovation but now we got to spend the whole day wandering the halls of this huge old building. Paintings are organized by century but the meat of the museum is the 15 and 1600s collection. And the star of the show is the "Night Watch" by Rembrandt van Rijn. A big crowd was gathered in the exhibition room where a dozen huge paintings were displayed. Most portrayed vain men posing with their fellow town militia members in what was some kind of combination of a rotary club and N.R.A. meeting. For a good time, look on the internet for a flash mob of the Night Watch. It was put together by the museum to let people know that the renovation was over.
There were a few crowded areas but we were lucky to be here on a cold February weekday and got to see everything. There is one remarkable tryptoch of the Last Judgement by Lucas van Leyden. It's the centerpiece of the Leiden musem and is on loan while renovations take place. It's a huge vision of Christ sitting on a cloud directing traffic. On the left are people being carried to heaven by angels. On the right are people being thrust into the fire by demons and deformed figures. Everyone except Jesus and the angels is naked. It's common to see women's breasts and bums as well as men's hardware exposed in most of these religious paintings. Parishioners got to be titillated (pun ntended) while having the hell scared out of them. One other thing of note is that no black people were portrayed for the first 100 or so years. The first was a portrait of a favored bodyguard of a wealthy man. Everyone else was white including an alabaster Cleopatra, breasts rampant, who is dissolving a pearl in vinegar in order to drink it. Oh what party tricks. But wait, I thought she was Egyptian not Swedish. Everyone is white in these pictures.
There is a lot of personal vanity and, just as in our country, nationalistic memory here. People had their portraits done posing as biblical figures adoring the Christchild or just standing in the crowd at some tale from the gospels. And the big scenes of naval battles indicate that the Dutch never lost. Most were commissioned by the winning captain or his family. Still, they have a point. The Brits, French and others were constantly after rhe Dutch. Why? Well I recall the words of the famous bank robber Willy Sutton who was asked, "Why do you rob so many banks Willy?". His answer serves as the answer to this historical question: "Because that's were they keep the money."