Thousands witness opening of long-closed Rijksmuseum

There were cheers and fireworks on Saturday as the 75-year-old queen, making one of her last official appearances before her abdication, turned a golden key and officially opened the renovated building before a crowd estimated by the museum at 10 000.

Rembrandt van Rijn's masterpiece The Night Watch, showing Amsterdam's civic guard setting off on a march, is the only painting in the collection to have been restored to its original place.

"I am really proud it will open again. It is such a beautiful building," said Marry Straathof (58), a big fan of the famous Rembrandt. "It really belongs there, at that spot. It has beautiful colours."

The huge painting is approached along a Gallery of Honour hung with works such as Johannes Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter and The Merry Drinker by Frans Hals.

Many of the prize pieces in the collection of 8 000 works have been re-displayed in a broader context, with related paintings, furniture, silver and ceramics arranged in close proximity to each other as part of the museum's new layout.

€375-million renovation bill
The renovation of the museum, which is a showcase for the Netherlands' art, its rich history as a naval power and society of merchants, has received rave reviews in the Dutch and international media in recent weeks.

More than 75 000 tickets have been sold, Dutch media reported, and museum staff expected as many as 30 000 visitors on Saturday when the museum reopened. General director Wim Pijbes has said his ambition is for all Dutch children to see The Night Watch.

The museum's overhaul took far longer than expected and overshot original estimates, costing €375-million as the architects had to incorporate an existing bicycle path in the museum's design and ensure that the spaces below sea-level were in no danger of flooding. – Reuters

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