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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ceaser

A Brief History of Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam

What is Museum Van Loon?

Museum Van Loon is a beautifully preserved Golden Age canal house that showcases the wealth and legacy of the aristocratic Van Loon family.


Museum Van Loon Gardens

Jean-Christophe BENOIST, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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Museum Van Loon History

Dating from 1672, this elegant, double-fronted mansion on the Keizersgracht canal was originally occupied by Ferdinand Bol, a famous Golden Age painter and student of Rembrandt. But it was one of Amsterdam’s most illustrious and wealthy families, the Van Loons, who made this grand residence what it is today: impeccably preserved and filled with several centuries’ worth of the family's fine furnishings and possessions.


Willem Jansz van Loon, the patriarch, co-founded the Dutch East India Company in 1602, amassing an immense fortune and ensuring the family’s prominence. His grandson served as Mayor of Amsterdam and the Van Loons went on to become members of the Dutch nobility. In 1884, prominent banker Hendrik van Loon purchased the home as a wedding present for his son, Willem Hendrik, and his wife, Thora, who was lady-in-waiting to Queen Wilhelmina. The Van Loon family continued to live full-time in the residence until the 1970s, when its upkeep became too expensive and it was restored and converted into a historic-house museum.


The pristine interior illustrates how the Dutch aristocracy lived in the 19th century – and they lived extremely well. Rooms feature five-metre-high decorative stuccoed ceilings, carved woodwork and ornate fireplaces. The whole house is brimming with exquisite period furnishings, plush Persian carpets and scores of family portraits that date back as far as the Golden Age. Highlights include the dining room, filled with fine 18th-century silver and the family’s collection of porcelain, and a dramatic, red-walled drawing room furnished with French and Italian antiques.


Museum Van Loon interior

Remi Mathis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Up the staircase, decorated with an elaborate curling brass banister, are the first-floor bedrooms, equally sumptuous with rich textiles and opulent patterned wallcoverings. There’s a second floor that’s not open to the public as it’s still in use by surviving relatives of the Van Loons.


At the back of the building is a lovely formal garden leading to the coach house, modelled on a Greek temple, complete with stone columns and statuary. Centuries later, there’s still a faint whiff of horses as you step inside. On display are period livery, harnesses, and a marvellous collection of sledges and carriages that once ferried the Van Loons around the streets of Amsterdam.


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