The Rijksmuseum: Home of “The Nightwatch”

The_Nightwatch_by_Rembrandt, 1642
The Nightwatch, Rembrandt’s masterpiece at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, painted in 1642 (© Wikimedia Commons)

The ornate present-day building of the Rijksmuseum, or Dutch National Gallery, is a major tourist attraction in the middle of Amsterdam’s museum quarter, erected at the expanding 19th century edge of the city in 1885. The history of the collection goes back to 1800, however, and the bicentennial of that event prompted David Swatling to enter its revered halls and review its 200 years as a national temple of art and history. Among its many treasures is the world’s greatest collection of Dutch masters, and in its great central hall, leading up to it as if to an altar, hangs Rembrandt’s greatest painting: “The Nightwatch”. The museum has undergone major renovations over the past century, but there is plenty to tell about just the first 200 years.

Producer: David Swatling

Broadcast: May 3, 2000