What is now the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
(Koninklijk Paleis in Dutch) on the Dam was originally Amsterdam’s
Royal Palace of Amsterdam History
It had long been intended to replace the existing town hall with one
more indicative of Amsterdam’s power and wealth, and many medieval houses were demolished to
make way for it.
In 1647 Jacob van Campen designed the monumental building, which was
begun in 1648. Daniël Stalpaert was appointed city architect and supervised the building work,
taking control of the project when van Campen withdrew in 1654 because of a disagreement with
The outbreak of war with England in 1653 imposed financial
restrictions on the project, but these were lifted in 1655 when it was decided to carry out the
original designs. The front of the building faces the Dam; the ground plan is 80×57.5 m; the
height to the top of the dome is 52 m.
The building is a rectangular block with two internal courtyards.
Three bays project at each corner, together with the seven central bays of the long façades.
The corners are emphasized by transverse roofs. Above the basement are two main floors divided
by a horizontal cornice.
Each of the main floors has two levels of windows, defined by a giant
order of pilasters, Composite for the lower and Corinthian for the upper level, following
Vincenzo Scamozzi’s book of orders Idea dell’architettura universale. The drum and cupola were
built in 1664.
The building lacks a grand entrance. The seven small archways in the
east front probably symbolize the Seven Provinces. The tribune, where courts were held, is
situated behind the middle three. It is unglazed, with open bronze railings, so that the
proceedings could be followed from outside. The statues in this room all allude to crime,
punishment and justice.
The great hall, also known as the Burgerzaal
(Citizens’ Hall), is situated in the middle of the building, flanked by the two courtyards. It
is the apotheosis of the building, measuring 34×16.75×28 m. Its height is divided by two rows
Set into the floor is a marble and copper map of the world and a chart
of the heavens, so that a walk from one end of the hall to the other travels through the
universe. The most important rooms were situated on the galleries around the courtyards. Fine
sculptures allude to the function of each room.
Although the actual building of was completed in 1665, it was several
years before all the sculptures and paintings were finished and installed. The sculptures were
executed by the Antwerp sculptor Artus Quellinus, whose assistants included Artus Quellinus,
Rombout Verhulst, Gabriel Grupello, city mason Willem de Keyser and Simon Bosboom. Commissions
for paintings were given to Govaert Flinck, Jan Lievens, Juriaen Ovens, Ferdinand Bol, Jacob
Jordaens and Thomas de Keyser, among others.
In 1808 the city council was more or less forced to give the Stadhuis
to Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and Barthold W. H. Ziesenis, the city architect, was
presented with the difficult task of converting it into a royal palace. He used partitions to
divide the galleries and the Burgerzaal into rooms, and concealed much of the symbolism by
means of curtains and panelling.
The Neo-classical style of the late 18th century and the early 19th
had much in common with that of the 17th century, which is probably why the building had such
appeal at the time of its remodelling. The alteration was largely sympathetic, although the
fine bronze cross-framed windows were replaced by large modern sash windows.
Rooms were refurnished in a modern style since all the furniture had
been transferred to the Prinsenhof. This replacement furniture remains in the palace and forms
Holland’s largest collection of Empire furniture.
In 1813 the French left Holland, and William I returned. He gave the
building back to the city of Amsterdam, but since the city council did not have the means to
redecorate or maintain the enormous building, it was offered again to the King as his official
residence in Amsterdam, an arrangement that still continues.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
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Royal Palace of Amsterdam 1673