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Rembrandt, Rembrandt, Rembrandt

Dating to Holland’s Golden Age in the 1600s, Amsterdam’s lovely (if sometimes sinful) center, a place of cobblestone streets and gable-roofed homes that oozes Old World charm, has long been one of Europe’s most alluring destinations. But this year Zumpolle and others in the tourism business here are bracing for a new surge in interest as the country celebrates the 400th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn, its most famous historical resident. It’s a celebration that, like Rembrandt’s best-known painting, the wall-size Night Watch, already has all the markings of an extravaganza.

“There’s never been a time when you could see so much Rembrandt in one place,” boasts Boris de Munnick, an official at the world-renowned Rijksmuseum, which plans no fewer than five Rembrandt shows before the commemorative year is through.

The museum, which is undergoing renovations through 2008, will unveil its biggest show, the much-awaited Rembrandt-Caravaggio, on Feb. 24 at the adjacent Van Gogh Museum, which has more available space. It pairs 13 of the rarest Rembrandts, borrowed from museums around the world, with equally monumental works by the era’s other great master of the dramatic lighting technique known as chiaroscuro.

De Munnick, lounging on a bench just steps from Night Watch, the museum’s crown jewel, notes that the institution also has brought out its entire collection of 19 Rembrandt paintings for the first time in its 121-year history. (They’ll remain up through Feb. 19.) Normally, 14 at most are hanging.

Still, the Rijksmuseum offerings are just the beginning of what can only be described as Rembrandt madness. Tourism promoters, hoping to boost foreign visitation by as much as 250,000 people this year, have helped arrange events at half a dozen other venues across the city, from the Rembrandt House to the Jewish Historical Museum. Hotels and restaurants, meanwhile, have rolled out special Rembrandt packages and menus. And there’s even the biographical Rembrandt: The Musical, premiering July 15 at the Royal Carre Theatre.

The art-heavy festivities come as the options for Rembrandt-loving tourists grow in a city often touted as much for its liberal attitudes toward prostitution and marijuana as its rich cultural heritage. – Source: From “Amsterdam fetes the artist” by Gene Sloan, USA TODAY, Feb. 2, 2006

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