Abraham Beerstraaten: The old city hall of Amsterdam during winter (1658-1666)

(Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Abraham Beerstraaten (1643-after 1666). The painting shows the old Medieval city hall of Amsterdam during the situation of 1615-1652. This complex was build in the 14th century. Before that time the city council held their meetings in a local tavern or a house but when Amsterdam got their Town privileges in 1342, the city expanded in such a rapid way that a more permanent location had to be found. In 1368 the city council bought a house next to the 'Holy Spirit Hospital' located at the Dam square. This house was demolished and a replacement complex was build in its place so in 1395 the city council could move in. This building is the complex on the right of the tower. Since 1609 the bank of Amsterdam (Dutch the 'Amsterdamsche Wisselbank') was housed in this part. Other buildings around this first city hall were bought and added to the complex. The building with the arcade on the left of the tower was added in 1418 and is the courtroom called in Dutch the 'vierschaar' (literally the ' four corners'). When the tower was added to the complex is unknown but besides a carillon, it housed a room where the 4 mayors of Amsterdam held their meetings. The doorway on the left of the courtroom lead to several meeting rooms and the torture-chamber. Hanging on the courtroom is a jaw of a whale. This was a custom at several courthouses - the meaning behind it is unknown. The entire complex burnt down to the ground on July 7, 1652 and the current Amsterdam Palace was build in its place. Painting from 1658-1666.

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