| AMSTERDAM, April 4
AMSTERDAM, April 4 The Dutch national museum
reopens this month after a decade-long overhaul in which nearly
everything has been changed except for the setting of its most
Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch" will be the only work
still hanging in the same place when Queen Beatrix officially
opens the Rijksmuseum on April 13 after a 375 million euro
($482.02 million) renovation to a treasure trove of Dutch art.
"We've had a complete transformation, everything is new,"
General Director Wim Pijbes said at a press preview on Thursday.
"The only thing that hasn't changed is the place of 'The Night
Rembrandt's large masterpiece shows Amsterdam's civic guard
setting off on a march and is approached along a "hall of fame"
hung with works such as Johannes Vermeer's "Woman Reading a
Letter", and "The Merry Drinker" by Frans Hals, as well as
opulent displays of fruit and flowers.
The opening will be one of the queen's last official duties
before she abdicates, showing off the country's art, its rich
history as a naval power and society of merchants.
Many of the prize pieces in the collection of 8,000 works
are now displayed in broader context, with related paintings,
furniture, silver and ceramics arranged in close proximity to
each other as part of the museum's new layout.
Rembrandt's portraits of a wealthy lady in a delicate lace
ruff and a man wearing an exotic turban hang close to a portrait
of Rembrandt by his friend, the artist Jan Lievens, with whom he
shared a studio.
Nearby are works by another friend the silversmith Johannes
Lutma and an oak cupboard inlaid with ebony and mother-of-pearl
by Herman Doomer, whose work Rembrandt admired and whose
portrait he painted.
"The 10-year renovation project gave us the opportunity to
entirely reinvent our collection," Director of Collections Taco
"You create the world in which they lived and give a feeling
of the times."
Likewise, a room devoted to the country's history as a naval
power contains an enormous model of the Dutch warship "Willem
Rex" and a trophy of war - the stern carving from King Charles
II of England's flagship "Royal Charles" which was captured by
Dutch forces in 1667.
The ship was towed to the Netherlands where it was scrapped
apart from its carving of a lion and unicorn. Nearby is an ink
on canvas picture of The Battle of Terheide by Willem van de
Velde. The artist, an early war painter, even includes himself
in the work, shown sketching aboard a ship in the foreground.
The building itself has also had an extensive renovation.
Designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, a Catholic, the
museum opened to the public in 1885 but was deemed too showy by
Protestant critics. So gradually, many of the interior
decorations, from murals to mosaics, were covered up or removed.
Those have now been restored.
"Cuypers's building was not well-received by the Protestants
of Amsterdam because it looked like a cathedral, so they slowly
covered up part of it," said Antonio Ortiz, one of the
architects who worked on the renovation.
"It was dark, dim, sad, a labyrinth. We have brought the
building as close as possible to its original splendour."
The museum hopes the overhaul will help catapult it up the
rankings for visitors, and attract as many as 2 million visitors
a year, up from about 1.2 million just before the renovation
That's a far cry from the 10 million people who visit the
Louvre in Paris each year.
($1 = 0.7780 euros)
(Reporting by Sara Webb, editing by Paul Casciato)