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?