Category Archives: Details of Art

Power Display In Masonry

According to the Amsterdam Courant “a great noise” should have sounded during the night of Saturday April 13 to Sunday, 14th, 1822 on Oostenburg. Which is not surprising, during that night half the grain warehouse by Cruys and Co. plunged to the ground. The crash site immediately attracted a lot of attention and the picturesque ruin was soon immortalized by various artists. This attention was not for nothing, the collapsed building was in fact not just a warehouse, but the former Sea warehouse of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

The console with leaping lions from the former East Indian Country House, Department of Monuments and Archaeology
The console with leaping lions from the former East India Country House, photo Department of Monuments and Archaeology

The VOC Zeemagazijn (Sea warehouse) dominated from 1660 to 1822 the streets of Oostenburg. It was part of the extensive shipyard complex on the isle of Oostenburg, where between 1665 and 1799 five hundred East-India ships were built. The central warehouse, also known as the East India Country House, was with a length of 215 meters (705 feet), width of 25 meters (82 feet), four floors and a double loft the largest industrial building in the Netherlands. It formed a link between Amsterdam and Asia. Thus, the supply went from the town of outgoing VOC ships from the Sea warehouse and this was the place where in Asia it brought back goods as porcelain and spices were stored prior to further distribution. Exclusive import products that can now be seen in the exhibition “Asia> Amsterdam. Luxury in the Golden Age” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, USA. (until June 5, 2016*) Only after providing a demolition permit in 1829 the building finally disappeared from the cityscape.

Etching of King William I visiting the ruins of the East Indian Sea warehouse by A. Lutz, J. Jacobs & Co., 1822, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Etching of King William I visiting the ruins of the East Indian Sea warehouse by A. Lutz, J. Jacobs & Co., 1822, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Last October, archaeologists from Monuments and Archaeology used the redevelopment of Oostenburg immediately to dig next to the Van Gendt-halls to see if there were still traces of the past VOC were present. Three meters below the road surface foundation remains were as expected found of the Zeemagazijn. The allure of the Sea warehouse is properly reflected in one of the finds, a stone console that has landed in a ditch after the demolition in 1829. This construction fragment (83 x 32 x 19 cm) was originally designed, and was cemented in a wall piece, the projecting part is decorated with two forward-catching lions. Another example of such a show of force in the masonry of a business can be found in the Shipping House (Scheepvaarthuis) on the Prins Hendrikkade. Here the viewer is impressed by the heads of seafaring heroes who are stabbing out of the wall.

*“Asia> Amsterdam. Luxury in the Golden Age” was on show at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam from October 17, 2015 to January 17, 2016.

Prayer Temple in Amsterdam West

In the Jan Maijenstraat in Amsterdam West sits a large brick building on the square, that doesn’t at first sight equals the reminiscent of a church. The letters above the entrance indicates that it is indeed a church; the Jerusalem Church. It is the only church from the period of the Amsterdam School, both outside and inside have been remained intact. Reason enough to declare this monument to Amsterdam School Monument of the Month.

Jerusalem Church - photo Albert Palsgraaf
Jerusalem Church – photo Albert Palsgraaf

At the beginning of the 20th century was like decades before a big shortage of housing in the city. After the famous Plan South by architect Berlage in 1917, the city presented in 1922, Plan West. The plan was also known as the 6,000-houses plan called for the number of laborers housing who would appear west of the Admiralengracht. The Jerusalem Church was one of the three churches built in this area. Under the motto ‘City without temple’ Dutch Reformed churches collected money for years to pay for the construction.

The Jerusalem Church was designed by architect F.B. Jantzen and built in 1928-1929. The church, in tight Amsterdam School style, pops out of a block of social housing and fits harmoniously into the other buildings in Amsterdam School style in the forecourt. Connecting the church with the underlying housing blocks had been a deliberate choice of the architect to express that God will dwell with men. The design is clearly influenced by the buildings of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with the characteristic cubic shapes and flat roofs. The terrace structured building looks reminiscent of a temple from the Middle East.

Interior Jerusalem Church
Interior Jerusalem Church

The interior is designed as a unit, largely by Jantzen itself. Previously, he was guided by numbers and colors that had a Biblical sense. For example, the stained-glass windows are rich in biblical symbolism. But this is also reflected in the chandeliers, the central headlight symbol of Jesus surrounded by twelve smaller lights, the apostles. The dark furniture from tropical wood contrasts with the white walls. The 42-voice Furtwängler & Hammer organ in the church, has like the building a monumental status and was restored in 2014. Incidentally the church, which is still, as such, is in use as a branch of pop temple Paradiso.

This year’s Open Heritage Day Amsterdam celebrates its 30th birthday and as a tribute 100 years Amsterdam School will be celebrated. In addition to the regular weekend in September, it will open doors of a special Amsterdam School building, from April on every second Sunday of the month. The Jerusalem Church is the first to open its doors, and on Sunday, April 10th from 12:00 to 17:00 you can visit the building. Admission is free, during the tours they will tell you more about the building and from 14:00 the organ will be played occasionally.

Already curious? Look ahead to local broadcasting AT5 and its item Streets of Amsterdam from this week while visiting Jan Maijenstraat. Spoken text is in Dutch.

Mysterious Characters From The Forest

At Haringpakkerssteeg, a small side street of Damrak, work is in progress. A gambling hall gives way to an eatery. On the property itself things are not cultivated, except for the old beams which come back in sight. On those beams is something special, wild scratches and streaks that look like runes.

One of the four beams with three characters
One of the four beams with three characters

It almost never happens that round logs sit in an Amsterdam building. Felled trees were usually stripped in the forest of their bark, sometimes straight cut or edited with the ax and then loaded onto a ship or transported in a raft. In order to see to which party the wood belonged and who was the owner, marks were made. Before the tree was used at the place of destination, it was further chopped up or sawn to size. The brands that were previously made, would thereby be missing.

It has only happened once before in Amsterdam, when the Department of Monuments and Archaeology found a major series of brands from a saw timber trade. It was in 2007, during the restoration of the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum). The marks in the wood, which came from eastern Germany and Poland, could be partially deciphered.

Sketch of one of the beams with on the left the characters shown in detail
Sketch of one of the beams with on the left the characters shown in detail

The beams were cut straight and are probably a repair done in the nineteenth century. The markings look like runes, the oldest known script from the second and third century to the sixteenth or seventeenth century were used by Germanic tribes of northern Europe, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Iceland. They differ from the characters in the Maritime Museum. From previous research, we know that with the markings as things origin, traders, buyer, length of the beam and the numbering of a lot of wood have been reported. Currently the construction historians are still trying to investigate where the wood came from.

Time Travel at Rokin Station

Make a journey through the history of Amsterdam? That can be done from autumn 2017 at Rokin Station. Those who enter or leave this subway station can’t ignore the huge glass display cases between the escalators. It shows a selection of the 700,000 finds that archaeologists of the Department of Monuments and Archaeology removed from the soil during the construction of the North / South line.

City Archaeologist Jerzy Gawronski (left) and artist Daniel Dewar (right) at work - photo Jorrit 't Hoen
City Archaeologist Jerzy Gawronski (left) and artist Daniel Dewar (right) at work – photo Jorrit ‘t Hoen

Since the mid ‘90s of last century, the archeology department was involved in the construction of the North / South line. This started with a desk study that the anticipated archaeological values on which the route of the subway were mapped. This study then led to Project Archaeology North / South line. After a preliminary field study began in 2005, the intensive archaeological research took place until 2010 at various locations. The two main locations were Damrak and Rokin, because they are located in the former Amstel River which flowed through town on this location. Between these sites they collected 700,000 finds that tell in detail how the people of Amsterdam lived and worked at previous centuries.

A selection of objects - photo Jorrit 't Hoen
A selection of objects – photo Jorrit ‘t Hoen

From 2010, the archaeologists started processing the finds. The objects were cleaned and inventoried and then entered into a database. There are digital models made of the places where the objects were found. And the idea came to town archaeologist Jerzy Gawronski to include the finds in archaeological artwork. In collaboration with artist duo Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel, who also make the another artwork along the platforms of Rokin Station, this idea is translated into an archeological installation.

This will consist of two displays, one 10 meters long and the other one 14 meters long, and both 3.5 meters wide. The bottom of the display cases is on a slope on which one will see about 8,000 objects. The finds have been placed by topic. By organizing them thematically rather than time creates a surprising combinations of ancient objects with contemporary ones. Together they tell from the end of 2017 to the traveling people of Amsterdam or visitors the story of the city.

DAMRAK = An avenue and partially filled in canal at the centre of Amsterdam, running between Amsterdam Central Station in the north and Dam Square in the south.
The street was located on a rak (reach), a straight part of the Amstel river near a dam; hence the name. In the 19th century, a section of it was filled in. Because of the former stock exchange building, the monumental Beurs van Berlage, and several other buildings related to financial activities erected there in the early 20th century, the term ‘Damrak’ has come to be a synonym for the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in the same way ‘Wall Street’ is synonymous with the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

ROKIN = A major street in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Originally it was part of the river Amstel, and was known then as Ruck-in (from ‘inrukken’, which means ‘to withdraw’), as some of the houses on the Amstel had to be shortened to construct the quays there in the 16th century.

The Rokin begins at Muntplein square and ends at Dam Square. In 1936, the part between Spui square and Dam square was filled in. On the remaining part of the water, canal boats are now moored.

Pixelated Masterpieces

By looking towards minimal old-school video games and 8-bit computer graphics, Adam Lister reinvents famed artworks with a distinctly digital aesthetic. The New York based artist bridges past and present through his pixelated watercolor compositions, each modeled after a notable painting or pop culture character. Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, Hokusai’s great wave’ and Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ are broken down to their most basic, elemental geometries, defined by color and tone.

The first drawings were rendered in pencil — an initial sketch formed by angular representations of the subject using only vertical and horizontal lines. Lister paints the resulting square and rectangular shapes in a palette that best matches the original work. Although abstract and lacking any fine detail, the compositions are realized as rigid yet recognizable reinterpretations of familiar masterpieces, but also lesser known pieces…

Try to figure out which one is which, or visit Adam Lister’s website for the answers.


Why Do Architects Wear Black?

I have yet to do some research about this beautifully shaped cape but I wanted to share it already. It is probably the best neckline I ever saw in a man’s costume. It is so sharp and original in its asymmetry (and the little white button of his shirt on the left brings a subtle balance to the whole). The fact that it is an architect wearing it somehow makes sense, as if the shape of his dress underlines his creative talent. But why do architects ‘still’ wear black?

Click on an image for a closer look (opens in a new window)

Ludger Tom Ring (the Elder), Portrait of an architect, on oak, first half of the 16th Century, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie.

Strawberries Anyone?

These strawberries in a Chinese porcelain bowl are painted on copper, which makes it look so bright it almost seems like the bowl is real porcelain, reflecting the light of the room.

It was painted by Frans Snijders in 1616, and is called: Still Life with Fruit, Porcelain and a Squirrel, oil on copper, and part of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Click on an image for a larger view (opens in a new window)

Amsterdam in the 17th century was a vibrant city with global connections. The largest and most powerful trade and shipping company in the world, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) filled Dutch homes with Asian porcelain, lacquer, sumptuous textiles, diamonds and spices.

QPQHSZ44Made of special, precious materials and adorned with intriguing exotic patterns no one had ever seen before, the Asian treasures caused a sensation in Amsterdam. With their color and richness, they aroused the curiosity and stimulated the imagination of the Dutch bourgeoisie. Very fine white porcelain with blue designs from China, boxes displaying excellent lacquer work and ivory from Japan, gem-studded jewelry from India and Indonesia, silk fabrics from Japan, remarkably shaped shells, black ebony, filigree from India… the Dutch gasped at the beauty of it all and enthusiastically incorporated these treasures into their hitherto more modest interiors. It was also remarkable that not only the super-rich could afford to buy these items, but also a large part of the growing middle class. All that precious luxury was shipped to Amsterdam – at that time ‘the world’s harbor’ – by the ‘world’s first multinational’, the Dutch East India Company.

Inspired by these novel imports, Dutch potters, textile designers and jewelers created works of art we now perceive as distinctly Dutch. Artists such as Rembrandt, Willem Kalf, Jan Steen and Pieter Claesz were also quick to incorporate these luxuries into their paintings.

Co-organized by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, this exhibition of 170 superlative Asian and Dutch works of art explores the transformative impact that Asian luxuries had on Dutch art and life in the 17th century, bringing new perspectives on the Dutch Golden Age and its relationship to Asia.

At the moment it’s on show in the exhibition Asia > Amsterdam at Rijksmuseum until 17th January.

The exhibition Asia > Amsterdam will be on view in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, US from February 27 till June 4, 2016.