Where to experience the Dutch Golden Age in Amsterdam

Amsterdam simply bulges with culture, cuisine, and hot pink windows yet right now the city is glowing with the shine of the Dutch Golden Age.

Roughly spanning the 17th century (The Golden Age is officially dated) this was a time when the Dutch ruled the waves and Amsterdam saw a glorious explosion and culture.

To celebrate the Dutch Golden Age there are city-wide exhibitions from now to mid February that talk about the creativity of the time. Here’s where you can see it.

Flinck and Bol – The forgotten masters

Everyone has heard of Rembrandt but his pupils are hardly household names. This is changing with a long-awaited double exhibition “Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck: Rembrandt’s Master Pupils” showing at Rembrandt’s House and the Amsterdam Museum.

Both born around 400 years ago, the pupils completed their training at Rembrandt’s House and became two of the most celebrated painters of the time. By late 1640 they had even surpassed Rembrandt in commercial output.  Yet after they disappeared into the shadow of their master.

At Home with Rembrandt

Start at Rembrandt’s House where the master lived and worked for 19 years. Here you can see where the two pupils honed their skills as painters of portraits and scenes,  working in the style of Rembrandt.

Amsterdam Museum

Once Flinck and Bol had completed their training, they branched out and tailored their styles to the changing taste of the time. The story continues in the Amsterdam Museum with elegant portraits and imposing scenes the established and successful duo. While Rembrandt painted his sitters exactly as he saw them, warts and all, the commercially smarter pupils produced flattering and more colourful portraits of their sophisticated and patrons.

Flinck had a network of friends and relatives in high places and Bol acquired a useful circle of clients when he married the well-connected Elisabeth Dell. The artists’ commissions for Amsterdam’s new Town Hall in Dam Square, now the Royal Palace, were the ultimate proof of their success. The works are still in situ and open to public viewing.

You can’t help but compare the lives of these rising stars to that of their master, Rembrandt. Although he was to produce creative and highly moving works of art right up  until his, he suffered personal tragedy and financial ruin. He had lost his first three children, then his wife, Saskia, while the later years were beset with bankruptcy and an acrimonious relationship with a former lover. As if that weren’t enough his common-law wife and only surviving son, Titus, predeceased him.

Museum Van Loon

Ferdinand Bol made so much money that he quit painting and became the first tenant of the grand residence at Keizersgracht 672, now the Museum Van Loon. On show are an impressive collection of his paintings, including Rembrandts and Rubens. Some of these are on show until early February in the mansion’s Coach House just beyond the delightful garden.

The Van Loon family, descendants of a co-founder of the Dutch East Company, still reside here but visitors can stroll around the main rooms of the mansion to admire the fine furnishings and family portraits dating back to the Golden Age.