Tribute to Amsterdam: Typanum of the Royal Palace

By: Jackie Gase

One gallery of the Rijksmuseum I found particularly interesting was the sculpture gallery behind the gallery of the Night Watch. In the gallery was a model of the tympanum (pediment) relief on Amsterdam’s Royal Palace. The relief depicts the four continents presenting objects, bringing prosperity to the symbolized Amsterdam in the century. The woman in the center is the City Maid of Amsterdam who wears the hat of Mercury to emphasize Amsterdam’s role in merchant trade. To the left is Europe elegantly dressed and offers knowledge and wisdom. To the right is Asia represented by the camel, veiled woman, and turbaned man who present spices. To the far right is Africa personified by a half naked woman and a lion; this country offers a barrel of grain and fruits. Finally, to the far left is America represented by the Native Americans in a feather headdresses, tobacco, sugar cane, and silver and gold are presented to Amsterdam.

Based on our discussion of colonialism, do you think this pediment, which was made in 1648 for the town hall, connects to a Dutch colonial attitude in the Golden Age? What do you think about current attitudes toward the moment? Do you think people see a prior colonial attitude in this sculptural program? Likewise what do you make of Europe among the other continents? Where Europe gifts knowledge and wisdom, the other continents present commodities that the Dutch most likely exploited. Furthermore, do you see the African woman represented as the commodity to Amsterdam instead of the barrel? Is this a notion of the slave trade? Finally, what do you make of this being displayed in the Rijksmuseum?

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2 thoughts on “Tribute to Amsterdam: Typanum of the Royal Palace

  1. Nice observations here, and your questions are very well placed, especially in light of some of the other colonial artifacts we saw in the museum. I went back and took pictures of all those dioramas and found a book about them in Dutch. I’d like to know more about those very peculiar artifacts of the colonial encounter! I like that you’ve noticed how open the Dutch were about colonial connections during the Golden age. It seems hidden in some right now.

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  2. This was a very interesting gallery. I went in this room twice and both times there were no other visitors. I feel this is an overlooked space. It is directly behind the Night Watch and the entrance is down a small hallway. Most people go to this end of the museum for the Night Watch, then turn around not knowing there is another room behind it. So why chose to place these seemingly important artifacts in a unvisited area of the museum? Is it because it pays homage to the Dutch Golden Age and colonialism? Why are the Dutch so adamant about hiding all the faults in their history? To me, by being so obvious in hiding these topics, it seems to bring more attention to them (colonialism, take over of Nazi Germany, etc).

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