For a journey into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, the Willet-Holthuysen Museum is the modality of choice. Abraham Willet (1825-88) came from the affluent educated family of an Amsterdam doctor and early on became interested in art and literature. With his inheritance he became a bon vivant social lion collecting all kinds of art. leading the art society, and participating in all the important social events. Louise Holthuysen (1824-95) was also from a wealthy and well travelled family, inheriting the house that now houses the museum from her family. They married in 1861, redecorating their house in the latest French style, and beginning their lifelong accumulation of art and the other fine things in life ( including many pet dogs - her favorite a St Bernard named Figaro). At her death, she bequeathed the house to the city of Amsterdam as a museum.
Each room is beautifully decorated and furnished but it should be noted that much of the furniture is 'in the style of' rather than being the original furniture and decor. Many of the paintings, including some dog works, are original. Restoration is ongoing and some rooms have limited access.
The basement kitchen looks like a 19thC room, but is entirely furnished 'in the style of'. The giant stove is gone. The dining room is small and cozy, exquisitely furnished, the table set with a 275 piece Meissen porcelain set for 24. And at the back of the house, view or go out into the very formal 18th C style garden.
As with the Tassenmuseum, entrance is covered by the Museumkaart. This museum is just down the canal and with it make for a fascinating morning of lesser known but really worthwhile museums.
The Willet-Holthuysen museum displays a collection of 19th century ceramics, glass art, furniture, sculptures, drawings and paintings.
The museum is named after Abraham Willet and his wife Louise Willet-Holthuysen; the last occupants of the house. Both were art lovers, what is reflected in the collection.
A part of the museum is the beautiful garden.
Admittance: € 8,--
Guided tours: Additional € 70,-- per group.
Mo-Fr: 10AM - 5PM
Sa-Su: 11AM - 5PM
“The deepest and most lifelike emotion has been expressed, and that’s the reason they have taken so long to execute.”
— Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Complete your 17th century, Dutch luxury experience by strolling in the French-style garden at the rear of the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum.
“I returned to Amsterdam, where I went to a Synagogue of the Jews, being Saturday; the ceremonies, ornaments, lamps, law, and scholes, afforded matter for my wonder and enquiry. The women were secluded from the men, being seated above in galleries, and having their heads muffled with linen after a fantastical and somewhat extraordinary fashion.”
— from “Memoirs of John Evelyn, Esq.” diary entry of 19.August.1641
The garden at the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum, laid out in 18th-century style, is worth a visit.
“The voyage to Amsterdam was like a dream journey.”
— from “Maartje And Jaapje” by Grace Soper appearing in “Harper’s Young People” 1893
The Willet-Holthuysen House Museum is a true gem, a must for those who would like to see what Amsterdam’s canal houses looked like centuries ago.
In this 17th-century house, named for its last private owners, Abraham Willet (1825-1888) and his wife Sandrina Louisa Holthuysen (1824-1895), who left her house, with everything in it, to the city of Amsterdam in 1889, you can enjoy the richness of a bygone era.
One excellent example of this richness is the stained glass. I found these examples of the stained glass in the Garden Room.
“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.”
— Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Part of the souterrain, the kitchen was restored in 1972 to resemble what such a space would look like in the 18th century.
One wall covered in blue tiles (see photo #1) liven up part of the kitchen. The scene is the Battle of Solebay that took place on 7.June.1672. It was the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The caption under the portrait identifies the sitter as the Duke of York.
Sprinkled throughout the kitchen on its walls are other cute examples of Dutch tile painting (see photos #2 & #3).
“Amsterdam furnishes a tremendous brain stimulant to the student of American history. The city recalls cradle memories of the founders both of New England and of New Netherland. Here is one of the first homes of our nation’s chief glory, religious freedom.”
— from “The American in Holland” 1907 by William Elliot Griffis (1843-1928)
At the Willet-Holthuysen House Musuem you can see how the upper crust of society lived. This double-wide canal house was willed to the city by Mrs. Sandrina Louisa Willet-Holthuysen, the last private owner, in 1895. The furnishings are not original to the house but are meant suggest just how such a house would have been appointed.
The art is original to the house; it is the collection of Sandrina Louisa’s husband, Abraham Willet, who is remembered as ‘the Oscar Wilde of Amsterdam.’
The Blue Room (see photo #2) exhibits several portraits of previous owners by unspecified artists. In this room there are several decorative paintings by Jacob de Wit (1695-1754); these have been come from other collections in Amsterdam.
“Concealed talent brings no reputation.”
— Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536, Dutch theologian)
At the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum, three floors are open to the public. These include the souterrain, with the kitchen and garden, restored in 1972, the first floor (bel-etage with its long hallway), and the top floor, with one bedroom, in tact, on display and other rooms used for exhibitions of pieces of the remarkable collection of fine and applied art acquired by Abraham Willet. Flower paintings are on display by various Amsterdam painters, such as Adriana Johanna Haanen.
The Willet-Holthuysen Museum provides educational programs and a guided tour. The Museum is now under the management of the Amsterdam Historisch Museum.
“The plague increases at Amsterdam.” [May 4, 1664.]
— from “Defoe’s History of the Great Plague in London: A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe (1659-1731)
One of the most impressive features of the Willet-Holthuysen is the stairwell. This stunning staircase is lit by a skylight; the steps and walls are marble; Roman gods and goddesses closely watch as you climb to the first floor.
What is known today as the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum was built for Jacob Hop, mayor of Amsterdam, around 1685. The last private owner, Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, left the entire house to the city of Amsterdam in her will in 1895 with one condition: that the house be turned into a museum. Frans Coenen Jr., a writer, composer, and art critic was named curator at the time Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen gave her gift. It has been a museum ever since.
“Don’t give your advice before you are called upon.”
— Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
SAGE ADVICE Known as the Prince of Humanists, Erasmus was a Catholic Dutch priest and theologian as well as one of the teachers to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Our advice to anyone visiting Amsterdam is to take a tour of the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum. Located on the Herengracht, Museum Willet-Holthuysen has a large collection of silverware, plates, and books from the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Dutch Golden Age. Its substantial art collection is also on display.
In 1739 the canal-facing façade was redesigned, looking as it does today, in the very fashionable Louis XV style.
Here you can get a glimpse of how a wealthy dutch family lived in an 18th and 19th century canal house. Upon Mrs Willet-Holthusen’s death her will left her 17th century canal house to the city of Amsterdam stating it must be made into a public museum – this immortalises the family name through history.
On the 2 floors there is an elegant ballroom as well as a dining area & master bedroom all furnished with comparable furnishings. In the basement a kitchen & scullery giving one a glimpse of what the servants were required to do. The servants also entered into the house at the basement level where we enter today. The garden is laid out in a French fashion the more statues you had in the garden displayed your wealth.
Apparently there used to be a nightclub next door of course not in those days but you can see from the garden it has been torn down & we now await to see what is going to be going up in its place.
Adults Euro 6 Child Euro 3 Open Mon - Fri 10am - 5pm wknds 11-5pm
Interesting canal-side house museum that allows visitors to see the lifestyle enjoyed by the high bourgeoisie of Amsterdam from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
The house was constructed between 1685 and 1690; it is the only canal house museum in Amsterdam that dates from that era. (The last private owners of the house, the Willet-Holthuysen family, donated the property to the Amsterdam Historical Society in the late 19th century.)
Plenty of objet's arts: silver, china, paintings: a haven for those interested in historic interior design. Not palatial but certainly well beyond comfortable!
We really liked the clothing exhibit on the top floor of the house. They had a few original pieces, and quite a few large panels that were "blown up" from early 19th century fashion books.