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Museum Van Loon

Museum Van Loon (28)

To get an idea of how a wealthy family lived during the seventeenth-century Protestant Reformation, you should visit a palatial residence like this one.

Indeed, both the museum building and its content are extremely interesting because, regardless of the exceptional value of the collection on exhibition, the mansion in which it is housed tells a lot about this period in Amsterdam’s history. 

Construction of the residence began in 1671, based on the plans of the architect Dortsman, who had previously designed the Lutheran church and orphanage of Prisengracht. 

This palace had several tenants, the first of whom was a rich merchant, J. Van Raey, whose interior balustrade ornamentation featured statues representing the gods associated with the areas in which he traded: Mars and Minerva, for weapons, Vulcan, for iron, and Ceres, for wheat.  

The most recent tenant of this palatial residence, whom the museum is named after, was the Van Loon family, descendants of the founders of the East India Company. 

Like most of the houses in the same street, the facade of the Museum Van Loon reveals very little about the treasures hidden inside. This is because Calvinist morality condemned ostentation, something that devout nobles and the bourgeoisie observed strictly, albeit only in appearance of course. These supposedly sober, austere buildings thus hid on the inside a whole world of luxury and opulence, far removed from the initially apparent decorative paucity. 

The most striking features of the facade are therefore its windows, which have turned a light purple over the course of the centuries. Many local residents call the museum building the “house with the purple windows”. 

A trip around the inside of the museum will give you an idea of the kind of life lived by the city’s bourgeoisie centuries ago. The lounges with their marble finishes, the French and Italian antiques, the eighteenth-century furniture, the Louis XV-style rooms and, above all, the Van Loon family portraits are the high points of this museum. 

To round off the visit, we recommend a visit to the house’s private garden. Very much French in style, with statues and trimmed bushes, it is representative of the many secret gardens of the canal residences.

One of the truly genuine features of this museum is the way visitors feel as if they truly belong here. In other words, there are no barriers, routes that have to be followed, or ropes. You may move round the palace rooms, go up, down, inspect and somehow feel as if you are spying on other centuries and other lives, as if you could still hear the servants preparing a reception in the adjacent lounge.

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