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'Giants' of Dutch Golden Age to be united for first time by three museums in Amsterdam
A visitor admires Rembrandt's masterpiece "The Night Watch" in on April 4, 2013 Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, home to the world's finest collection of Golden Age art, which is to open to the public on April 13 after a 10-year renovation. Amsterdam's world-famous Rijksmuseum revealed its new 21st century identity on April 4, 2013 after a vast 10-year, 375-million euro (480-million dollar) renovation aimed at breathing new life into its unparallelled collection of Golden Age masterpieces. AFP PHOTO / CHARLES ONIANS.

AMSTERDAM (AFP).- The world-famous Rijksmuseum is teaming up with two other Amsterdam institutions to exhibit around 30 "giant" Golden Age paintings, similar to Rembrandt's "The Night Watch", together for the first time.

"These are the biggest group portraits of the 17th century, literally giant paintings," Amsterdam Museum director Paul Spies told AFP of the permanent exhibition to be completed by the end of the year.

The Rijksmuseum, home to the world's finest collection of Dutch Old Masters, and the Amsterdam Museum will supply the paintings while the Hermitage Amsterdam will provide a vast room for the works to go on display.

"Some of these paintings are around eight metres (over 25 feet) wide," said Hermitage director Cathelijne Broers, adding: "An enormous room was necessary and we had one available in the Hermitage building."

The Hermitage Amsterdam was built in the 17th century when the Dutch dominated world trade and were flush with cash to spend on paintings, many of them as vast as they are self-aggrandising.

The paintings are also hugely symbolic, paid for by the powerful guilds, militias or city officials they portray and displayed in official buildings where they would impress or intimidate visitors.

The museums describe the paintings to be exhibited as "classmates" of "The Night Watch", which will remain the Rijksmuseum's centrepiece.

A more modestly sized -- roughly one-metre square -- fragment from Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman", repeatedly cut down during its history, will go on display at the Hermitage.

The selection of paintings to be exhibited has not yet been finalised, but will include works by Nicolaes Eliasz and Adriaen Backer, organisers said.

"Moving these works is a real logistical challenge, the paintings will have to enter the building through holes that we will make in the roof," said Spies.

"They certainly won't fit in through the doors!"

The museums hope the permanent exhibition will open towards the end of November.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

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