4-23-19 Amsterdam The Hermitage and Portuguese Synagogue

On Monday we boarded our new home, The River Empress,

The River Empress

for the next 11-days cruising along various rivers from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland ,stopping along the way at eight different spots on the rivers. Prior to leaving Amsterdam, however, we were treated to a private visit to the Hermitage Museum. This is an Amsterdam based extension of Russia’s famed Hermitage Museum housed in the former Amstelhof, a classical style building from 1681.

Here we are in front of the Hermitage

Tsar Peter (1682 – 1725) had a special relationship with Amsterdam,  having lived in the city for several years. He founded the very first public museum in Russia, and some of the exhibits at the original Hermitage were items he acquired in the Netherlands. Therefore it only seemed natural to create an extension of the famous Hermitage in St Petersburg in Amsterdam. The Museum was opened about 10 years ago with a rotating exhibit staying for 6-months then being replaced with an entirely new exhibit of items.

One of the first galleries we entered was filled with Old Dutch master paintings.

Multiple old Dutch Master paintings and shields of wealthy patrons
These paintings were huge! Not of royalty, but of Citizens.
Governors and Governesses of the Charitable Works Dutch companies. Cared for orphans, widows, poor.

Many of these painted were completed in the late 1600’s and depicted various Guilds of the time. It seems groups of men would band together for a common cause and then want to have their portrait painted to commemorate the group. The person who paid the most was the more important in the painting while those with lesser means were depicted more in the background. The room holding these paintings is huge – as is required to be able to exhibit these paintings some of which are quite large.

Spotlighted exhibits had a couple of paintings, one by Rembrandt depicting dissections.

This was Rembrandt’s depiction of dissection of a thief as by the famous Dutch anatomist.
Drawings of muscle and skeleton were studied by artists as well as physicians.
Anatomy dissection was a group activity where people paid to watch from an amphitheater

Any criminal or a stillborn child could be used for anatomy dissection, as it was believed they would not be going to heaven.

Around another corner was Donna Nuda – oil on canvas, transferred from panel by Leonardo da Vinci. It seems Catherine the Great bought this painting in 1779 from Sir Robert Walpole as a work by Leonardo.

Donna Nuda by Leonardo da Vinci
Does anyone look at Her smile?

The Musée Condé in Chantilly, France, has a drawing that bears many similarities to this work and that Leonardo specialists largely attribute to the master himself in 2017. Over ten versions of the Donna Nuda exist in various collections. The Hermitage version is the best of them all.

William of Orange plaster bust 1816  He promoted an independent Netherlands.
Anna Pavlovna of Russia – Crown Princess of the Netherlands plaster 1816
This was the church hall where services were held when this building was a Seniors Home

Next was an exhibit of the Green Room Malachite pieces which helped make up the Malachite room in the royal Russian palace.

Some of the many wardrobe pieces stored at Hermitage in Russia , displayed in wedding room.
Solid disc of malachite , clocks, vases, eggs, were on display, the walls of malachite remain in Russia

The stone was considered to be therapeutic for stress relief. It was where all royal princesses were prepared for marriage.

Swan, embattled, compare with painting in Rijksmuseum
The Threatened Swan (c. 1650) by Jan Asselijn held in the Rijksmuseum

We had the place basically to ourselves for a few hours and it was lovely for sure. The central exhibit contrasted ancient works with modern aspirations of the same theme.

Medieval St. George and Dragon
Compare with 19th century painting
19th Century St. George April 23 is his day, and that of our son Jason’s birth.
This lion was just stalking outside the Hermitage near the kinder museum

After our visit to the Hermitage we walked over to the Portuguese Synagogue – a late 17th-century Sephardic synagogue completed in 1675.

Front of the Portuguese Synagogue built by those expelled from Spain and Portugal, with Navigation and mercantile knowledge

This was one of the largest and richest Jewish communities in Europe during the Dutch Golden age and their very large synagogue reflected this. The wood for the arc was jacaranda from Peru. The synagogue remains an active place of worship. The building is still without electricity and all services are held under candlelight.

Inside the Portuguese Synagogue Note the Jacaranda wood arc
Over 600 candles are needed to light the Portuguese Synagogue

After our tour, we returned to the boat to settle in for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.

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