|[Published: Saturday April 13 2013]
Amsterdam - Fireworks and fanfare accompanied Dutch Queen Beatrix as she on Saturday reopened Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum treasure trove of Golden Age masterpieces after a 10-year renovation.
The reopening is Beatrix's last major public appearance before she abdicates in favour of her son Willem-Alexander on April 30, and performers from around the Netherlands and its overseas territories took part in the ceremony.
After the queen turned a key in a symbolic lock on a vast orange carpet at midday, a long queue immediately formed of people wanting to visit the world-famous museum, open for free until midnight.
The museum, built in 1885 for 200,000 annual visitors, now hopes to double the one million people that it was hosting prior to the renovation.
After the ceremony, watched by thousands and accompanied by huge puffs of red, white, blue and orange smoke, Queen Beatrix, 75, was given a tour of the renewed museum by director Wim Pijbes.
The 375-million euro (480-million dollar) revamp, masterminded by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, has run over time and over budget but has been hailed by observers.
Architects and artisans have restored much of the original styling of the Gothic-Renaissance building, designed by Pierre Cuypers, but with extensive modern touches.
The museum covers 800 years of Dutch history through 8,000 objects, distributed through 80 rooms. A one mile (1.5-kilometre) walk around the galleries will take you "from the Middle Ages to Mondrian," the Dutch painter and one of the pioneers of the De Stijl movement in the first half of the 20th century.
But at the heart of the museum's physical and artistic identity is Rembrandt's vast masterpiece of militia intimidation, The Night Watch.
The painting, flanked by works by the likes of Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals, symbolises the Golden Age, roughly spanning the 17th century, when the Dutch dominated much of world trade and, as a result, art.
Spectacular newfound bourgeois wealth meant that millions of paintings were commissioned, often portraits or landscapes, rather than the romanticised Biblical imagery that had dominated the Italian Renaissance.
The Protestant Dutch spent the first half of the Golden Age fighting for liberation from the Catholic Spanish, and it is not without irony that Spanish architects have now renovated the world's foremost Golden Age treasure trove.
While previously a museum such as the Rijksmuseum would have a room for paintings, a room for furniture and a room for ceramics, that has now changed.
Instead, Rembrandt's paintings now hang alongside furniture made by Herman Doomer, a cabinetmaker friend of his, or a portrait of Golden Age poet Constantijn Huygens, who wrote about Rembrandt.
One particularly Dutch headache has been a bicycle path running through a tunnel in the middle of the building.
The museum didn't want the tunnel used as a bike path because of its proximity to the entrance, but the city authorities decided to let the bikes through and monitor the situation.
The Rijksmuseum shares the Museumplein in south-central Amsterdam with the formidable cultural ensemble of the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum, both also world famous in their own right.
The Stedelijk reopened late last year after a nine-year renovation and the construction of a new wing resembling a giant bathtub, and the Van Gogh Museum is to reopen next month after its own renovations, bolstering Amsterdam's credentials as a top art destination.
The museum trio hopes to work together to retake the grassy park of the Museumplein they share, an area currently often used as a party ground for football fans.