The history of the canal house | Museum of Bags and Purses

The history of the canal house

The history of the building at number 573 Herengracht starts in 1664.

Cornelis de Graeff

Cornelis de Graeff, mayor of Amsterdam on various occasions, is joint owner, with three other gentlemen, of a number of urban estates that were allocated in 1664, in an agreement signed in the presence of a notary. In this agreement, it was also specified that the four owners ‘should build to the same level, under one fascia and under one cornice’. This unity has been maintained to the present day and is unique in the Amsterdam canal ring.

Ceiling paintings

Cornelis de Graeff dies in 1664 and his son Pieter de Graeff commissions the construction of the building, for which mason Thomas Munster sets the first stone on 17 April 1664. Pieter de Graeff was alderman in 1668 and brother-in-law of the well-known Pensionary of the Council Johan de Witt. At the end of the 17th century, the ceiling paintings are added in the smaller of the two period rooms. The ceiling painting in the small period room was made in approx. 1682 by Paulus de Fouchier (1643-1717)

The ceiling painting consists of five sections. In the centre is the patroness of Amsterdam, surrounded by the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

Grandson Gerrit de Graeff, alderman in 1739, also took up residence in the building. He was known for his wealth and infamous for his miserliness. In the first half of the 18th century, a major renovation of the building takes place. This is when the ceiling paintings and the painting above the mantelpiece were added in the big period room and the lavishly adorned fireplace added in the small period room.

Jeltje de Bosch Kemper

In her diary, Lady Jeltje de Bosch Kemper, who lived there around 1850, wrote of the deadly boredom in her life. A girl of her standing didn’t work and after leaving school, she just stayed at home. During those years, a tremendous anger rose up in her, causing her to rip the chains off her straitjacket. She wrote passionate articles in which she defended the right of women to have paid work, and together with kindred spirits, she set up the Amsterdamsche Huishoudschool. She considered earning one’s pay through housework as being an honourable activity.

Ceiling in the Museum of bags and Purses

The last inhabitant, Maria van Eik, bought the building in 1893 for 44,000 guilders (€20,000) and lived there till her death in 1906. In 1907 the building was sold to the Hollandsche Brand Assurantie Sociëteit and since then, various companies have had their offices there. The Museum of Bags and Purses has been housed in this building since 2007.

What other people say

I would recommend a stopover for any fan of purses!
One woman's acquiring a handbag led to a huge collection. Margaret Thatcher, Liz Taylor and Hillary Clinton's bags are all here.
"Loved this museum!"
Really gorgeous handbags with explanations. Fab restaurant there too and a tea shop.
"Spectacular place"