The ceilings of the Pinto House – a jewel of Amsterdam

Named after the rich Pinto family, this imposing classical style house today contains a public library with little-known superb painted ceilings.

Fleeing the Inquisition against the Jews in Portugal, the Da Pinto family immigrated to The Netherlands at the very beginning of the 17th century. They set themselves up as bankers, initially in Antwerp, then In Rotterdam and finally in Amsterdam. They gradually amassed a considerable fortune, which gave rise to the expression “rich as a Pinto”. Their friendship with the Stadhouder William IV led to their financing the war with France.

In 1651, Isaac de Pinto, one of the descendants bought the building at No 69 Sint Antoinesbreestraat. It was not situated beside a canal;, as were the majority of the houses of the wealthy, and benefited from a wider frontage than the canal-side dwellings. His son, David Emmanuel, reconstructed the house entirely in the 1680s in an imposing classical style; architect Elias Bouwman designed the impressive dressed stone façade.

The house stayed in the family till the 19th century but was then abandoned. In the early 1970s the building was threatened with demolition and was purchased by the city. After several years of contesting fast highway and metro projects, the house was finally restored in 1975.

Because the Pinto house has been converted into a public library, one can easily admire the rich vaulted period ceilings, in particular the cherubs, birds and floral decorations by the famous 17th century master Jacob de Wit.

The painter Th. Kurpershoek restored the paintings at the end of the 20th century, but, as some panels had been lost, he took the opportunity to create new ones. These are easily recognisable by the glimpses of contemporary life which have been slipped in: building work on the house, people on bikes, a glass bottle, and one can spot the presence of a little angel who is reading, a reminder of the current use of the building.

The decoration of the ceiling panel in the corridor, representing a sky with birds, is a replica of the original which was stolen when the house was abandoned. Fortunately some photos existed of the original to aid in the replication. In one of the rooms at the rear, you will see seven paintings by Nicolas Wijnberg. In the painting in the centre, there are four moons belonging to the coat of arms of the Pinto family. The floral decorations on the beams are authentic.

I love libraries and whilst they may not be your thing when you are travelling, when you are next in Amsterdam, seek out this jewel – it will delight you!!





(Adapted from Secret Amsterdam by M. van Eys & D. Robiot, published by JonGlez)

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