Amsterdam’s greatest cultural wealths are certainly the many Dutch noble houses located near the picturesque canals.
During my stay in Amsterdam, I had the chance to visit one of the most stunning villas: Museum Van Loon, which used to be the residence of the merchant family of Van Loon.
In 1602 Willem van Loon became of the founders of the Dutch East India Company and his grandson became Mayor of Amsterdam. In the early nineteenth century the family was raised to the nobility and they became wealthy bankers.
The house at 672 Keizersgracht (Museum Van Loon) was built in 1672 by the architect Adriaen Dortsman. The first resident was the painter Ferdinand Bol, a famous scholar of Rembrandt. Around 1750 the interior was completely rebuilt and embellished in the Rococo style. In 1884 the house was bought as a wedding gift for Willem Hendrik Van Loon and his wife Thora Van Loon.
In 1973 the house was opened to the public by their grandson, professor Maurits Van Loon, last male scion of the family. Since then the aim of the Van Loon Foundation has been to preserve the house and the collection for future generations.
Let me take you for a tour around the artistic domicile of a noble Dutch family.
The heart of the house is undoubtedly the magnificent hallway, which is unusually grand for Amsterdam houses. The monumental staircase connects the most important floors. The beautiful rococo style banister was made entirely of brass.
The Main Drawing Room has an impressive height, like most rooms on the bel-etage. In the corner of the ceiling Thora Van Loon is depicted.
The Dining Room is furnished in 17th century style, which was quite usual in the 19th century. In the 1960s Maurits Van Loon returned the dining room to its 18th century state. The original mirror over the fireplace and the console between the windows have been preserved until this day. This room is still used for special occasions by the remaining members of the Van Loon family.
The Red Drawing Room used to be known as the Gentlemen’s Room or Smoking Room. Willem Hendrik Van Loon would retire to this area for business meetings or to smoke a cigar after dinner with the gentlemen. The walls of the entire house are hung almost exclusively with portraits, displaying the long and proud lineage of merchants and members of the ruling elite.
The Garden Room is equipped with fine decorative panelling and mirrors that are reflecting the room perpetually. It’s hardly surprising that Thora chose this room, with the beautiful view on the garden, as her private quarters. From the mid 1920s on the room was used as the family dining room, when there were no other guests.
The Drakensteyn Room was intended as a bedroom. The room received its name from the painted wall-hangings, which come from Castle Drakensteyn, the private mansion of princess Beatrix. In the 1960s Maurits Van Loon acquired the original Drakensteyn wall-hangings. Painted murals were particularly fashionable in the Netherlands during the 18th century.
The Red Bedroom shows the transition from a flamboyant rococo style to the neo-classical Louis XVI style. This room is smaller because of the hidden stairs behind the bed which lead up to what was formerly the servants’ quarters.
The Bird Room was used as a nursey. Maurits Van Loon remembered sharing this room with his sister and a nanny. In the 18th century the room was redesigned as a library, with oak panelling for built-in bookcases. The room takes its name from the wall fabric depicting exotic birds.
The Sheep Room used to be the guest room in the Van Loon’s time. It was called Sheep Room in reference to the sheep on the wall fabric, which is a replica of a French imitation of Indian chintz.
The Garden used to be part of Amsterdam’s urban planning. The original plan for the canal district included not only the semicircular rings of canals, streets and houses, but also large, decorative private gardens, intended for pure enjoyment. Even during winter the Van Loon Garden provide a beautiful view from the first floor. Based on a print with a birds-eye, hew-and box hedges were re-introduced into the garden, in a similar pattern, in 1973. Amsterdam’s hidden canal gardens have acquired international prominence due to the annual “Open Garden Days” (every third weekend in June).
Where to find: Kreizersgracht 672, 1017 ET Amsterdam When to visit: Daily from 10am until 5pm Special thanks to Museum Van Loon. Photography & text: Judith Bradlwarter