Vincent van Gogh frequently visited the Trippenhuis, the precursor to the Rijksmuseum. The museum was free of charge and housed the Dutch national art collection, which contained works by masters such as Frans Hals and Rembrandt van Rijn. Vincent went there on Whit Monday 1877 before going to visit the Stricker family. Apparently, it was self-evident which paintings he had gone to see; he wrote to his brother Theo:
The Trippenhuis was being remodelled during Vincent’s time in Amsterdam, and a few of its galleries were temporarily closed. He regularly went back to see whether they had reopened. In early July 1877, they finally did, and Vincent wrote to Theo about the gallery containing Rembrandt’s The Syndics and “that portrait” by Bartholomeus van der Helst – probably the one of Aert van Nes and his wife, Geertruida den Dubbelde.
Vincent so loved the Trippenhuis that when his English friend Harry Gladwell was visiting the Netherlands, Vincent persuaded him that he could not leave without seeing it. Gladwell ended up going there with Vincent twice. Vincent also tried to talk his brother Theo into coming to Amsterdam to see some Rembrandt etchings in the museum that Vincent considered magnificent.
Vincent had been to the Trippenhuis before his move to Amsterdam. In 1873, he demonstrated his familiarity with the museum in a letter:
“Did you know that a large, new building will take the place of the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam? That’s fine with me; the Trippenhuis is too small, and many paintings hang in such a way that one can’t see them properly.”
The new museum Vincent wrote of was indeed built. By the time he was living in Amsterdam in 1877, construction of the Rijksmuseum on Stadhouderskade had already begun. It would finally open in 1885, and Vincent would come back to visit it.