It has recently come to my attention that the Amsterdam Hermitage is an incredible museum. I don't know how or why I have until now missed out on this realization but I feel rather silly. I probably should warn you that I am a huge museum buff (is that even as a thing? if not, it should be), my favorite types of museums being those that focus on history and culture. The Hermitage falls precisely within this category, focusing both on Russian and Dutch history... so, a niche market, but a niche I'm in love with. (I'm at best tepid about art museums, mainly because I find my patience runs out fairly quickly as I have very very little knowledge of the art world... that said, I loved the Rijksmuseum, mainly because it focused Dutch artists, who with their immense contribution to realism never fail to blow my mind).
But I digress. One of my fellow expat acquaintances and I were discussing Amsterdam's many museums, and she mentioned that she had recently visited the Hermitage and was surprised to discover that it was a spectacular museum. I hadn't been, and was somewhat surprised to discover this. The truth is, that the Amsterdam Hermitage often gets passed over in discussions of Amsterdam's landmark museums because, as a fairly new satellite of the St. Petersburg Hermitage, the original Hermitage, its often assumed that the Amsterdam Hermitage is just the Original's smaller younger sibling. Unlike many other museums in Amsterdam, the Hermitage is a millennial having been opened to the public in 2009. Nevertheless, the collection screams longevity in a way most centuries-old museums could only dream about.
The assumption that just because the museum is a newbie it isn't a goodie is severely misguided. First of all, Amsterdam has a very old and surprisingly direct link to the St. Petersburg Hermitage and the Russian royal family, the founders of the St. Petersburg Hermitage. The first Russian royal to take a Western direction for the rule of his nation was Peter the Great, and he in turn took great inspiration from the time he spent in and around Amsterdam. In fact, the very first piece of art purchased for the collection that ended up becoming the St. Petersburg Hermitage was a Rembrandt.
As a result, the museum has a decidedly imperial flavor to it. You can tell it was greatly influenced in its design but its elder Russian sibling - the sense of history and grandness is much the same. Several of the items on display are personal relics of Peter the Great himself - the tunics worn around Western Europe and cities like Amsterdam and Vienna that so inspired him to force abandonment of traditional Russian dress among nobles, a grandiose personal carriage, as well as many other personal effects. Other exhibits include historical artifacts, beautiful gold jewelry, unique court documents, and weapons - basically, anything and everything that would make a European history buff weep with excitement. Much of the collection has been brought in specifically from the St. Petersburg Hermitage, and other items have also been gathered from museums around the Netherlands.
And secondly, look at the damn thing - it's freaking beautiful!
Catch the "Peter the Great" exhibit at the Amsterdam Hermitage until September 13th 2013.
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