Simple plan made the night before: visit the Hermitage Museum outpost in Amsterdam to see the Silk Road exhibition, then head back towards the B&B, with a stop at the van Loon museum or maybe the Albert Cuyp Market. Rain is forecast to start at 10am and that will decide how much walking around I’ll be doing. I put on my raincoat (the only time I have worn it. The winter coat has not left the bag it was stuffed in) and slip the collapsible umbrella in my bag.
Ubered over to the museum, which reminded me of an Apple store on the inside – curving white walls, glass and metal stairs, lots of interaction features – swipe your ticket over a sensor to be admitted, doors swing open as you approach, the audio guide is triggered from a point on the wall you swipe with you audio unit, like the self check-out at Kroger.
My experience with the Silk Road exhibit will be all tell and no show, since photographs were prohibited. It ranged from fragments of damaged, extremely faded wall murals, to an entire silk garment lined in squirrel fur, preserved in ice for over a thousand years. Multi-media elements included a stuffed dromedary, a two-story high wall projection/slide show of individual items in the exhibit, and audio of Tibetan monks chanting. There were sections on the archeological aspects, past and current, For me, the idea of the show was more interesting than the artifacts on loan. I think the Hermitage mother ship could have been a little more generous with what they made available for this.
I left on foot through spitting rain, toward the Museum van Loon. Passed by a bustling entry and peered inside at what turned out to be the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, the Museum of Bags and Purses. I hesitated, but with a museumkaart, entry was free, so what the hay. Once inside I winced at the sign announcing a special exhibit – 50 years of Barbie! – but figured I could skip that, no one ever had to know. The collection is housed in a classic, canal view mansion, with the earliest objects on the top floor. One four-story climb later I walked in, and saw a goatskin drawstring bag with iron clasps from 1600. I was hooked. I loved it when they put a painting from the same era behind the purse – instant context. Like this:
The displays address the evolution of material and function. There are examples of beading, basketry, leather, plastic, and metal. Purses for brides and for chatelaines. Exhibits of what women carried, in various eras. So many of the purses were playful, inventive, or as hand held sculpture, like the clutch that mimicked a steamship. I pressed my nose against the glass more than once.
A cafe on the second floor had two formal rooms set for a high tea. They found me a table, slipping me in between the reservations.
I promised to be quick. Clotted cream, jam, and biscuits, how I missed you. I wolfed down crustless triangles of smoked salmon sandwiches, that biscuit, and a pot of Earl Grey. On my way out, I ducked into the gift shop. A Margaret Thatcher lookalike enthusiastically assisted me, and a mug, postcard, and one secret item later (a gift for Robert so I can’t include it here), I made it out the door. Guilty pleasures are the sweetest.
Walked on to the Museum van Loon, in the home belonging to the co-founder of the Dutch East-India Company. Interesting tension between the portraits of van Loon children by Dirck Santvoort and Nicolaes Maes, and a series of contemporary children’s portraits by artist Katinka Lampe they inspired.
Both disturbing, in their own way.
I revisited rooms multiple times. They had massive bouquets of fresh flowers throughout the mansion, a living version of Rachel Ruysch’s stilleven met bloemen paintings.
The formal garden behind the house was blooming in a palette of orange and purple and graced with a copy of the sculpture I last saw in the Louvre, Hercules carrying his son Télèphe.
Thirty more minutes of walking over bridges, dodging around bicycles and trams, and I was back at the B&B. It was a day that convinced me of how good it is to have a museumkaart in my pocket. and time to allocate as I wish.