April

April is the Month of Philosophy. And indeed it is with this year’s theme ‘guilt and penance’, when you know that both the trials against Jasper S. and Robert M. are currently held.
It is either that what is on the news on a daily basis, or it is the countdown to the opening of the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) after it was closed for renovation for almost a decade.

Jasper S. has confessed to rape and kill Marianna Vaatstra, a 16 year old girl, back in 1999. Robert M. was working in day care, when he was arrested for child abuse. It seems that there were over 50 small children involved.
So when you think about the reopening of the largest museum of this tiny country, you might get excited for this more happy news. No sorrow, just take the steps of this art palace and get above all these awful things. Well, you can forget about that as well. Because there is plenty of room for the downside of the Dutch history in general.
First of all there is ‘The bodies of brother de Witt’ (1672), painted by Jan de Baen, which shows the hanging bodies of these two men after a lynch party took place, because they rejected the government of Willem III. Secondly the executioner’s sword that ended the life of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547-1619) is shown. This statesman played an important role in the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. Ten years later he got himself in conflict about sovereignty with Prince Maurits and he was therefore arrested. He got the death penalty for high treason. And thirdly: in 2012 the Rijksmuseum bought the gun that was used to kill the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn (1948-2002). His murderer declared he had to stop Fortuyn from targeting ‘the weak members of society’ in seeking political power. I haven’t found this object on the website of the museum. I am just saying: dreadful and tragic events of people’s lives that can relate to guilt and penance can be found at the Rijksmuseum.
Indeed, humankind is about murder and betrayal, about illnesses, abuse, jealousy and rage. But thankfully there is also a sunny side of life. And with all its glorious tulips, portraits of historical figures, animals, landscapes, indoor paintings by Vermeer and Jan Steen… the Rijksmuseum has enough in stock to brighten your day.

For those of you who are up to visit this museum, please let me know about your impression.
The only thing that concerns me personally – I shall not threaten with penance or a sword – is that someone might come up with the ludicrous idea for another renovation. It rather be not in the first few decades.

The website of the Rijksmuseum is impressive, you might want to take a look.
Here you can find the painting by Jan de Baen.
And here you can find the sword that ended the life of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.
For more information about Pim Fortuyn, click here.

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This post is also available in: Dutch

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