Friday, February 08, 2008

The Golden Bent

It has been a while since I posted about Amsterdam. Not because I am enjoying the city less, but because its beauty is settling in my imaginary...

Our little tour of the Gouden Bocht(the Golden Bend, the most prestigious part of Herengracht and possibly Amsterdam) due to the uitje (institutionally enforced socialisation among colleagues) this week, was just what I like, and needed. The canal houses of the Golden Bent, like many beautiful details of Amsterdam, is hidden from the eyes, although by no means subtle.

Wiki says:
"The buyers on Herengracht were encouraged to buy two lots and built double-wide mansions, and because the three canals here were laid out a little further from each other, and the lots were also deeper. On these large lots, the well-to-do placed their city-palaces with classicist facades, stuccoed ceilings, and fine gardens, once a year open to the public. In the curve, by the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, lived Amsterdam's richest citizens."
Indeed, the houses were deep, big, stretching from Herengract, with the gentlemen's room overlooking the business street, to Keisersgract, where the coach house was built. in between, hidden from the eyes of the carriage would be a garden and the ladies' tearoom overlooking it. This unique depth required a lot of light-games, but also indicates little details about the life in those days(e.g. the Keisersgracht side of the coach houses being very modest, but from the back being ornamented in one of the styles named after the French king of the time, so that it would look pretty from inside, not outside. or that the same facade having no windows for privacy reasons...) Of course, there are no longer horses and carriages, but only Russian banks, private firms etc. Luckily we were able to visit some of these "monuments". (more info on these monuments, and architectural style)

This is the oldest photo I can find of the Herengracht. But the trees do not allow the houses to shine through... So, the newly-rich traders living in these buildings would ask the artists that they would commission to paint their street to skip the trees...

Wiki continues:
The House of the family De Neufville (1731), Herengracht 475 (the facade above), and Herengracht 476 are known as having the prettiest facades. Herengracht 466, on the corner of the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat was designed by Philip Vingboons and from 1858 until 1926 the office of the Dutch Trade-Society.

You can have 360 degree tours on the website of the organisation to protect these buildings.

The first owner of Herengracht 475 (this painting is now in Rijks Museum)

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