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Amsterdam Museum presents exhibition Golden Coach - 18 June 2021 to 27 February 2022 


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On Friday 18 June, the Amsterdam Museum will open the exhibition The Golden Coach. After more than five years of restoration, the Golden Coach is back on public display for the first time. The carriage will be on loan to the Amsterdam Museum until February 2022. With this, the carriage temporarily returns to the city that donated it to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, Amsterdam.

The Golden Coach is displayed in a glass enclosure in the main courtyard of the Amsterdam Museum. Visitors can take a very close look at the restored carriage in peace and quiet. In six museum rooms surrounding the courtyard, all with a view of the Golden Coach, a variety of stories are highlighted. Hundreds of cultural-historical objects, paintings, Orange memorabilia, garments, cartoons, photographs and moving images provide a multifaceted picture of the history and use of the Golden Coach and past and present discussions about this iconic vehicle.


The Golden Coach was conceived as a gift for the inauguration of the first woman on the Dutch throne, then 18-year-old Queen Wilhelmina. Ever since its inception, the carriage has had fans and critics. The Golden Coach is therefore much more than just a vehicle. The carriage symbolises something bigger: the House of Orange, democracy, the self-confident capital Amsterdam, the fairy tale (or: the golden cage) of royalty, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the colonial past. The exhibition, which is therefore multi-voiced, addresses all these meanings. Visitors meet the inventors, builders, spectators, demonstrators, descendants of the people depicted on the carriage and, of course, the users: the Oranges.

The carriage is at the centre of a current debate. After its restoration, is it desirable for the carriage to continue driving on Princes' Day and during Orange weddings and inaugurations? Does the carriage deserve modifications, or does it belong in a museum? The exhibition highlights diverse perspectives on the carriage to advance the debate on this controversial riding heritage. The Amsterdam Museum also invites visitors to share their views and use augmented reality to create an alternative Golden Coach. Thirteen contemporary artists will show work in the exhibition that ties in with the theme of the carriage. Before and during the duration of the exhibition, the museum will also travel with a mobile research installation to all provincial capitals to share information about the carriage and map which views on the Golden Coach are alive in the Netherlands. The exhibition The Golden Coach is on display at the Amsterdam Museum until Sunday 27 February 2022.

A gift from a divided Amsterdam.

The idea for the Golden Coach originated in a city in change. The exhibition first of all takes the visitor to the Amsterdam of the late nineteenth century, which, after a long period of stagnation, grew rapidly into a modern and self-confident capital. Where city walls had stood until recently, railway stations, factories, luxury hotels and new districts were rising. In thirty years, the population doubled, partly due to the arrival of large numbers of rural residents. What did Amsterdammers still share with each other? Women and workers were striving for a full-fledged position, young people were looking for their own way and the churches were also restless. The need for a unifying symbol grew: Orange. King William III (1817-1890), however, stirred few. His young daughter, Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962), captured the imagination more. During the eight-year run-up to her coming of age and inauguration, the desire grew for the whole city to give her a gift.

That wish certainly lived on Leendert Mens' mind. The Mens family lived in the Jordaan and was the driving force behind the Willemstraat Orange Association, where, according to tradition, the idea for the Golden Coach originated. The exhibition shows the gifts he received from the court in gratitude for his loyalty, including a cigar holder supposedly made by Queen Regent Emma herself. The story of the Mens family and the Orange collections on display illustrate that the love for Orange was traditionally strong in working-class neighbourhoods like the Jordaan. Canal-belt residents also supported the idea of the Golden Coach as a gift. But not everyone was enthusiastic about the royal family. Amsterdam during this period became a centre of socialists and anarchists - outspoken opponents of the monarchy, as evidenced by the cartoon Heintje and Emma in De Roode Duivel of October 1894, which mocked the head of state. Clashes between 'red' and 'orange' followed and concerns about polarisation grew. The Golden Coach was supposed to promote togetherness. With a door-to-door campaign, all Amsterdammers were invited to contribute, which also generated a lot of criticism of the 'golden quarter carriage'.

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Netherlands and the colonies

The initiators of the Golden Coach felt that the colonies should not be missing from it. After all, Queen Wilhelmina became head of state for five million Dutch people, half a million subjects in Suriname and the former Netherlands Antilles, and the more than 40 million inhabitants of the Dutch East Indies. The exhibition and audio tour elaborate on the relationship between the House of Orange and the colonial world.

On the carriage are several references to the colonies, including the much-discussed panel 'Homage of the Colonies' painted by Nicolaas van der Waay. To understand those references and the image that existed about the colonies at the time, the exhibition The Golden Coach looked at the 1883 colonial exhibition on Museumplein. Some one-and-a-half million Dutch people were introduced to the colonies at this World's Fair. The inventors and makers of the Golden Coach were also there. The Spijker brothers were there with carriages and Nicolaas van der Waay painted allegorical portraits for one of the pavilions. This raises the question to what extent they based the portrayal of the colonies on the Golden Coach on the 1883 World Fair. In the exhibition The Golden Coach will show a multifaceted selection of what the Spijker and Van der Waay brothers must have seen: a profusion of products, raw materials and cultural expressions. The organisers' ambition: 'to bring modern Western civilisation to the colonial wilderness, and to show the colonial wilderness to the modern civilised public in Amsterdam'. Therefore, kingdom artists from the East Indies and Suriname were also exhibited. Artist Nelson Carrilho, descendant of one of the people from Suriname presented at the world exhibition, reflects on the colonial exhibition and colonialism with his work.

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The Golden Coach dissected

That every square inch of the Golden Coach has symbolic significance is no exaggeration. A room in the exhibition therefore completely dissects the carriage, using photography and historical objects. Among other things, it becomes clear that the carriage features a Protestant Bible, Catholic cross and Jewish Torah. The female figures on the roof represent the sources of prosperity: agriculture, trade, shipping and industry. The carriage with all its symbols can be read as a story about the relationship between the Netherlands and the House of Orange.

The Golden Coach had to show what the Netherlands had to offer, made by the best craftsmen and using materials from all over the kingdom. For example, the thin layer of gold leaf shines on teak from Java. In a series of film clips, the restorers discuss the materials used and the builders' methods. For instance, why did the Golden Coach have to look old upon completion? And why does the carriage no longer have white tyres, as it did in 1898, but black ones? Where was the battery hidden that was needed for the electric lighting, a novelty at the time?

The painting deserves extra attention. The original sketches by Nicolaas van der Waay make it clear what exactly can be seen on the four painted panels, including the much-discussed 'Homage of the Colonies'. That allegorical painting shows how 'the West' (Suriname and the former Antilles) and 'the East' (Indonesia) bring gifts and pay homage to the Dutch Virgin. An audiovisual production explains this in the exhibition. A private view of the panel offers the artwork Colonies by Ishwanto Hartono, which can be found in this room.

This room is also about the makers of the Golden Coach. A penetrating photo series shows the craftsmen who made the carriage. Twelve men worked on the carriage at the Spyker factory for almost two years. The audio tour introduces visitors to one of them, banker C.H. Bos. Through prints and paintings, the visitor meets the ladies of Tesselschade, Arbeid Adelt and the girls from the middle-class orphanage, the building that now houses the Amsterdam Museum. Together, they were responsible for the embroidery of the entire interior of the carriage. Over 15 million stitches. Although the carriage was intended for the first woman on the throne, they were the only women to contribute crafts. The room also details the restoration process of the Golden Coach in recent years.

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The carriage in use

In 1898, Queen Wilhelmina was presented with the Golden Coach on the occasion of her inauguration. With souvenirs and historical photo and film footage, visitors will get a picture of the inauguration celebrations throughout the kingdom - including in the colonies. However, it was not until February 1901 that Queen Wilhelmina accepted the gift from the city of Amsterdam and the Golden Coach went to The Hague, by train. The original certificate of transfer is on display in the exhibition. In the same week, she rode in the carriage for the first time, during her marriage to Duke Hendrik of Mecklenburg. The Golden Coach has remained in use ever since for festive occasions such as a christening or wedding. Since 1903, the carriage has additionally been used on Prinsjesdag, the opening of the parliamentary year. In the exhibition, visitors discover that the use of the Golden Coach is reserved for the House of Orange and is always accompanied by ceremonial: a ride in the coach makes the monarch visible, but at the same time emphasises the distance between monarch and people. In the exhibition, a procession of valets, postilions and coachmen is recreated in full ornament. The procession allows visitors to experience all the ritual and protocol associated with a tour of the Golden Coach. That no one is left unmoved when the Golden Coach passes by is also shown by the large audiovisual presentation accompanying the procession in which the Golden Coach rides through time and the visitor sees how spectators react to it.

As they follow the procession, visitors walk to meet protesters. The Golden Coach is perhaps the most visible symbol of the monarchy and therefore also a major target of its opponents. In 1966, Provos disrupted Beatrix and Claus' wedding procession with smoke bombs, and in 1980 the carriage did not drive at all for fear of squatters and riots. The carriage was pelted with a bag of white paint in 2002 and still shows traces of the tea-light holder that hit it in 2010. Recent protests are directed not so much against the monarchy but, because of the 'Homage of the Colonies' panel, against the carriage itself and the knock-on effects of colonialism and racism in our society.

This large exhibition hall also provides an overview of the use of the carriage since 1901, with unusual and fascinating stories. In 1949, for instance, the Golden Coach was the highlight of a sailing exhibition to support reconstruction efforts. Many Dutch people cycled dozens of kilometres to admire it. The carriage was then considered the symbol of regained democracy. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the carriage did ride, but stopped for a few moments during the ride at the US Embassy to pay a salute to the ambassador. The coach's attendants also wore a more austere costume than usual. The history of the Golden Coach is a journey through moments experienced by the entire society.

Golden coach in the open air

After all these stories about and perspectives on the Golden Coach, visitors have the opportunity to view the carriage in peace outside. The carriage is set up in a special glass enclosure around which visitors can walk and thus view the carriage from all sides. Through the audio tour, several people explain what exactly can be seen on the carriage and how it can be interpreted.

Research and reflection

The exhibition ends with a room where visitors are invited to share their views on the Golden Coach. What is the significance of the carriage? And what do visitors think should happen to the carriage in the future? Through video and audio, art and augmented reality, a variety of visions on this can be seen.

The Amsterdam Museum also seeks opinions about the Golden Coach outside the museum walls. To give as many voices as possible a place in the multifaceted exhibition programme about the many facets of the Golden Coach, the Amsterdam Museum will travel throughout the Netherlands with a mobile research installation as soon as measures permit. In the research installation, people will be informed and can leave their personal associations, memories, emotions and thoughts about the royal carriage. The results will be presented in the research room in the exhibition, at and compiled in a report.

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Artistic reflections

The exhibition The Golden Coach is primarily a historical exhibition. A number of contemporary artworks have also been woven through the trail. In addition, the Amsterdam Gallery has been completely redesigned for the occasion with mostly new work about the Golden Coach. The Amsterdam Museum commissioned thirteen artists to create work that ties in with the theme of the Golden Coach. Among others, Erwin Olaf, Brian Elstak, Berend Strik, Sharelly Emanuelson and new, up-and-coming talents such as Airich and Serana Angelista provide artistic commentary on the materiality and iconography of the carriage from their own experience, knowledge and craft.

Audio tour and events

In a free audio tour accompanying the exhibition, historians, anthropologists, restorers, activists, Orange supporters and others explain different aspects of the Golden Coach. During the duration of the exhibition, various events will be offered at the Amsterdam Museum and on location. The museum will also organise a scientific symposium, various workshops and group tours. Visitors will find the latest information on the offer on the Amsterdam Museum website.

A special educational programme will be offered for primary school pupils from group 6, 7 and 8, MBO pupils and lower secondary school classes, focusing on discussing a number of themes surrounding the Golden Coach. Urban Myth, Theater De Krakeling and STIP theatre productions are making a family performance (8+) entitled: 'De Gouden Koets - het cadeau dat niemand wilde' with Birgit Schuurman and Tarikh Janssen about the young crown princess Wilhelmina and the young Kwadjo from Suriname who discuss the naturalness of power. The show can be seen in theatres across the country from September 2021 to February 2022.


A publication will accompany the exhibition. The colourful, 164-page book contains in-depth essays on, among other things, the genesis and ritual dimensions of the Golden Coach, its recent restoration and links the colonial past. The book is published by WBOOKS and will be available from June 2021 in museum shops, bookshops and online for €24.95.

Long duration

The exhibition The Golden Coach opens to the public on Friday 18 June 2021 and runs until Sunday 27 February 2022. Due to the restrictive measures due to the coronavirus, a maximum number of visitors per time slot will be operated. In order to allow as many people as possible to visit the exhibition and the Golden Coach in peace and respect for the applicable measures, the lender has agreed to a longer duration of the exhibition than previously communicated. The exhibition will be on view for more than eight months.

Exhibition development

The exhibition and public programme on this controversial Amsterdam gift was developed by a research group consisting of 11 specialists. The content and approach were discussed several times with a broadly composed sounding board group of 25 external experts. Members of the sounding board group included Karwan Fatah Black, Lara Nuberg and Pieter Verhoeve. The exhibition The Golden Coach was designed by Bureau Caspar Conijn.

The exhibition 'The Golden Coach' can be seen from 18 June 2021 to 27 February 2022 at the Amsterdam Museum, Kalverstraat 92. The exhibition is made possible by BankGiro Lottery, Blockbuster Fund, De Nederlandsche Bank, Dr Hendrik Muller's Vaderlandsch Fonds (publication), Gerard van den Tweel, Van den Tweel Foundation from Nijkerk, Kickstart Cultuurfonds (routing museum), Mondriaan Fund, Nico Nap Foundation, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed. The Amsterdam Museum is structurally supported by the Municipality of Amsterdam and the BankGiro Lottery.

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