In our ‘Countdown to Amsterdam’, we show sketches made in Amsterdam by some of the ‘old masters’ and pictures of the views they painted as they are now.

by Roger Klaassen

We can only start our ‘Countdown’ with one of the greatest painters of all time: Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669). Rembrandt died 350 years ago, a reason why there are many Rembrandt expositions this year. For example in the Rijksmuseum, where they show all Rembrandt paintings, drawings and etches of their collection. But you can also visit Rembrandts house, which is close to our main venue, the Zuiderkerk.

Rembrandt often went out of his studio to sketch. He sketched landscapes, merchants and travellers, animals, windmills, etcetera. I did not find that many sketches of Amsterdam, but here are a few.

This is the Montelbaanstoren, drawn by Rembrandt in 1644/45. The tower dates from 1516. Its name is an Amsterdam slang for ‘Monte Albano’, which was a name given to a castle planned to be built near it by the Duke of Alva. At that time the Duke of Alva was the chief representant of the Spanish Emperor in the Low Countries, a man with a terrifying reputation in dutch history (the Netherlands revolted against the Spanish occupation in its 80 Years War for independance). Strange enough, Rembrandt didn’t draw the white steeple (that was gray at the time), that was added to the tower in 1606. By the way, Amsterdammers call the tower ‘Malle Japie’ (‘Crazy Japie’).

This is a sketch of the Westertoren, the tower of the Westerkerk. This ‘West Church’ is a sister to our main venue, the Zuiderkerk or ‘South Church’ – as you might expect, you can also find an Oosterkerk (‘East Church’) and Noorderkerk (‘North Church’) in Amsterdam. Rembrandt was buried in the Westerkerk. However, the exact spot where his remains are buried is not known.

Rembrandt made this sketch at the Grimnessersluis. As you can see on the photo, the place has completely changed over the centuries. High time someone makes a new sketch there!