Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam


Herengracht 170-172, the Bartolotti House (±1617)

Herengracht 170

Because of its cheerful appearance this well-known Amsterdam canal house, the Bartolotti House, was sometimes called "the house with the bright colours". It was built circa 1617 for Willem van den Heuvel, one of the richest merchants in town. Willem adopted a new name, Guillelmo Bartolotti, still reflected in the name of the house. Guillelmo or Willem commissioned a stylish house from Hendrick de Keyser himself. The cartouches incorporated in the facade indicate what, to a merchant's mind, were the virtues at the basis of commercial success: 'Ingenio et Assiduo Labore' (through ingenuity and unremitting labour), 'Religione and Probitate' (through religion and virtue).

with Latin texts

The house is one of three surviving examples of early 17th century houses with additional wings (the predecessors of the double canal house). The other survivors are: Singel 140-142 (The Dolphin, circa 1600) and Keizersgracht 123 (The House with the Heads, 1622).

The ridge of the roof runs parallel with the canal. This holds true for the main house as well as the additional wing. What we are concerned with is a house consisting of two 'aisles'. The floorplan does not reflect this structure, because it has been subdivided into a left and a right part (see drawing below). Two large chimneys articulate the corners. A special construction, resembling a dormer window, supports a stepped gable built in the Baroque Amsterdam Renaissance style popularised by Hendrick de Keyser. As we have seen, the design is attributed to Hendrick de Keyser, but it was his son Pieter who supervised the actual construction process.

Top gable

The richly decorated facade is adorned with pilasters, strips, small white sandstone blocks, masks, vases, crolls, pillars and broken pediments. The stepped gable has balustrades on either side which, together with the pilasters, create the illusion of a second floor and make the house look taller than it really is.

Facade following
a bend in the canal

The groundplan follows a bend in the canal, the so-called "little bend" (analogous to the famous Golden Bend near the Leidsestraat, the richest neighbourhood of the Amsterdam ring of canals). The two outer bays have been placed at oblique angles, creating two curves in the facade. Four window bays make up the central section with the two outer bays each adding an additional window section. The voorhuis and entrance are located behind the middle section. The living quarters were located on the left, the reception rooms on the right.

Herengracht 170-172
before the restoration
during the restoration
(foto mei 1969)

In 1942 the Hendrick de Keyser Foundation bought the premises, but it was not until the late 1960s that extensive restoration plans were realised. The upper part of the gable top had been severely mutilated as part of a 19th century renovation which aimed at creating a more modest type of facade. The 1971 reconstruction is commemorated by a slab incorporated in the top gable. A model top gable of fibreboard was installed prior to the reconstruction proper. This method offered the experts every opportunity to assess their proposed reconstruction from street level. The splendid chimneys were rebuilt as well.

Herengracht 170-172

Two front doors

As early as 1689 the house was subdivided into two separate houses, but it was not until 1781 that the divorce was finalised when two separate owners bought the houses. However, at the time the house was built, the possibility of a split-up was already taken into account. A subdivision of the voorhuis into two separate halves sufficed to create two houses. Besides, two hoist beams were installed by cutting through the first floor cornices. Two entrance doors completed the operation.

before the subdivision

The original entrance (with a gate documented in "Architectura Moderna") was part of the third bay. The window of the fourth bay was changed into a second entrance (the front door on the right hand side).

Entrance gate
in: Architecture Moderna

Anna Divera Kick (1707-1769) inherited the entire premises in 1734. In 1735 she and her husband Nicolaes Cornelis Hasselaer (1703-1741) renovated the house on the right hand side, while the house on the left was rented by Dirck Trip.

As part of the 1735 make-over, Jacob de Wit produced several paintings, ceiling decorations and paintings articulating the doorways, while Xavery produced a splendid marble decoration adorning the fireplace (dated 1735 and signed). Unfortunately the marble relief vanished in 1924. The stucco decorations in the hall belong to the same period. In 1752 the property was sold in its entirety to Jan van Tarelink (1723-1791), who moved into the house on the right hand side, renovated the voorhuis and had an entirely new achterhuis built (1756). The great room in the achterhuis was decorated in Louis XV style. Buttner painted the ceiling.

Painted ceiling
Marble decoration

The 1735 and 1756 renovations, yielded an especially rich interior and made the house one of the most beautiful among the Amsterdam canal houses. The main features are: the beautiful stucco decorations of the corridor and the Régence staircase (1735); the paintings by De Wit in the front room (ceilings and paintings articulating the doorway, 1735); the wall decorations (painted on cloth) by Isaäc de Moucheron (brought over from their previous location and installed in the front room in 1873); wainscoting and ceiling decorations in the back room (1735); mahogany wainscoting, white marble fireplace and paintings (ceiling, fireplace etc.) by Buttner in the great room at the back of the house (1756). Last but not least there is a splendid room on the ground floor facing the garden which has been equipped with a 17th century marble washbasin. An authentic period kitchen is located on the same floor. The statues in the garden are by Van Logteren.

The front and back rooms of the house are accessible from the house next door. Visitors who come to Herengracht 168, which is now a museum, are offered the opportunity to see study these two rooms as well.


Special thanks to the Amsterdam Bureau of Monuments and Archeology website,