In 1663, a merchant named Karel Gerards commissioned Phillip Vingboons – one of Amsterdam’s leading architects at the time – to design and construct his future residence. Vingboons built the house in Dutch Baroque Architecture style, wherein symmetry is a central feature. Both the façade and the arrangement are fashioned as symmetrically as possible.
The building was part of the fourth expansion of Amsterdam’s canal district. It is precisely situated at the end of the third expansion, and was finished in 1665.
Phillip Vingboons was the son of David Vingboons, an Antwerp-born painter who moved to Amsterdam at a young age because of the Spanish siege of his hometown. Initially, Phillip also aspired to become a painter. In the early days of his career, he made drawings and paintings for Jacob van Campen, the architect of Royal Palace.
Vingboons is considered to be the most influential Dutch architect of the 17th century. The Cromhouthuis – at a small distance of the Herengracht – was also designed by Vingboons.
After Karel Gerards’ passing, the building became home to numerous merchants and bankers. One of them was banker Jan Willink, who purchased the residence in the 18th century. It is an interesting fact that Jan Willink co-financed the American War of Independence. He and two of his colleagues loaned money to John Adams, who would later become the second president of the United States.
The Andriessen Room
In terms of design, the Andriessen room is the oldest of the building. Jurriaan Andriessen created the room’s murals. It seems likely that Andriessen’s murals were initially intended for the larger period room. On close examination, certain aspects of the frescos don’t add up. The shadows don’t line up with the light of the sun. The treetops are missing and certain details seem to be cropped. It is unclear whether the frescos were initially displayed in the large period room for a brief time, or whether Andriessen directly cropped them in his studio.
In 1775, the building underwent a large renovation. The hallway – which initially ran from the front door all the way to the backyard – was downsized, which resulted in the arrangement we see today. After this renovation, the current Andriessen room was big enough for the frescos.
The floor of the Andriessen room was placed during the renovation of 1775, after the room was expanded in size. This is clearly noticeable in the room’s floor panels. The panels are all made of the same wood and are of equal width. This discovery was made during the renovation of 2010, when the original floor emerged from under the parquet floor. The walls in between the frescos were returned to their original 18th-century color. This color was retraced through a careful examination of the paint layers.
The period rooms
The period rooms on the ground floors of the prominent residences of the Heren- and Keizersgracht are from the 17th century and were designed for special and formal occasions. They were meant to give the owner of the residence esteem and status.
During the renovation of 2010, the two period rooms of the building were remodeled into 19th-century Empire style. This style hails from France and was introduced in the Netherlands during Napoleon’s era. It is characterized by the use of copious amounts gold and different fabrics.
The impetus for refashioning the period rooms in this specific style was the discovery of a 19th-century floor in the back room. A replica of this floor was placed in the anteroom, as the 19th-century floor was missing here. The renovation of 2010 also revealed the original wall covering. This inspired the design of the room’s current curtains and wall covering. Precisely one kilogram of gold was used to restore the original gold leaf.
The two rooms also show traces of 17th-century styles. These rooms were never rebuilt like the Andriessen room was. Examples of this style are the coffered ceiling in the back room and the false door in the anteroom. This door was placed to create the illusion of symmetry. The same is seen in the hallway, where the door across from the entrance door of the anteroom aims for the same effect. The intention here was to create a uniform image on both sides of the hallway.