Museum Willet-Holthuysen was originally built as a family residence in 1685-1690. It is located on the beautiful Herengracht (Gentlemans Canal) near the Amstel River, a highly coveted address, and is two property frontages wide.
In a city where property taxes were charged based on the house frontage, this gives you some indication of the wealth of the families who have resided here over the years.
Upon their passing the last owners of the residence, Abraham and Louisa, left the house and it’s large and valuable art collection to the city of Amsterdam. In 1895 it became a museum and a valuable insight into days gone by.
The tour beings in the downstairs servants entrance, and leads you trough to the kitchen. It is easy to imagine this space full of people each doing their part to make the elegant dinners and parties for the upstairs residents of the house a success!
As you progress upstairs into a different life and level of society, the entrance hallway is quite obviously something they brought back with them from their travels through France. It is breathtaking in its beauty, light, and level of detail.
First door on the left is the ladies salon. It is currently undergoing restoration and you can see both the work that has been done, and where they are still raising funds to continue the restoration.
It is such an elegant room, with many beautiful small details to make guests feel welcome. It is easy to put yourself in the picture of receiving your own guests here. It also doesn’t hurt that it leads through to the ballroom!
I’m sorry that my little camera I had on me this day didn’t have a wide enough lens to capture this room adequately. It was in this room that Louisa and Abraham would have entertained their guests with dancing and recitals. I loved the touch of the cat by the fireplace!
Back down to the front of the house, across the hall and you found yourself in the men’s receiving room. In it’s hey day this room was initially green, and not only did it house a great number of Abrahams favourite artworks, but the show stopped is actually the artwork on the ceiling.
Granted, difficult to make out in this picture!
On through to the dining room where the Willet’s entertained the upper echelons of elegant society in the day. What you are seeing set up on this table is a small portion of a 275 piece Meissen porcelain service which the Willets could seat 24 at dinner.
The room is presided over by Abraham’s parents.
The last room on the public level of the house is the conservatory. In here Mrs Willet would have entertained on a more personal level and indulged her guests with cups of finest (and expensive) tea.
The windows of this remarkable room overlook the French style garden below.
I love this garden so much! It was seeing this garden though the fence on the far side which intrigued me into discovering what it was connected to, and hence discovering that you could tour this elegant canal house!
On up the stairs to the private quarters, it is hard not to be awestruck by the stair well. Covered in marble and with three statues at the top representing Paris (center), Hera (right), and Aphrodite (left).
“According to legend, Paris, while he was still a shepherd, was chosen by Zeus to determine which of three goddesses was the most beautiful. Rejecting bribes of kingly power from Hera and military might from Athena, he chose Aphrodite and accepted her bribe to help him win the most beautiful woman alive. His seduction of Helen (the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta) and refusal to return her was the cause of the Trojan War. “ (source)
The Willet-Holthuysen House is a beautiful and remarkable picture into history. Well worth the visit if you’re in the area, and free on the Museum Card!