Set in the Amsterdam of the 1680s, a city fuelled by the sugar trade and shrouded in secrets, Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist is a story of truth, obsession and betrayal. Whether you’re planning a trip to the Dutch capital in which the book is set, or want to find out more about the story’s setting, read on and find out more about the iconic Amsterdam locations which feature in the novel.
Gouden Bocht (The Golden Bend)
‘At the step of her new husband’s house, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud. . . This part of the Herengracht is known as the golden bend, but today the wide stretch is brown and workaday’.
The section of the Herengracht Canal where Nella finds her new marital home is situated between the Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat.
'Nella has already spotted the sign of the sun. A small stone sun has indeed been engraved on a plaque, embedded in the brickwork. Painted freshly gold, it’s a heavenly body come to earth; bright stone rays shoot from a glowing orb. It is so high up in the wall that Nella cannot touch it. Beneath the sun, a motto has been engraved:
Everything Man Sees He Takes For A Toy.'
The road which houses the mysterious miniaturist is now a busy shopping street in the centre of Amsterdam. Kalverstraat is named after the cattle market which was held on the street from 1486 to 1629.
The home of the Guild of Silversmiths
'The Guild of Silversmiths’ feast chamber is large and full of people, whose faces blend into a blur of eyes and mouths and feathers bouncing off the brims of hats. Around them, the sound of silverware on silverware builds, male laughter hitting the walls to a subtler counterpoint of women’s titters.'
The Guild of Silversmiths (part of Amsterdam’s Jewellery Quarter) was founded in Sint-Annendwarsstraat, and had an alter in the city’s old church (below) as early as 1464.
The Old Church, Warmoesstraat
'Soaring white stone columns divide the arches around and up the middle of the nave. Painted scenes from the Bible are in several of the windows, and through their stained-glass saints the sunlight floods the floor in watery red and gold, pale indigo and green. Nella feels she could dive in, but the names of the dead embedded in the floor remind her that the water is actually stone.'
One of the oldest streets in the city and named after the vegetable market that used to be held there, modern Warmoestraat is adjacent to Amsterdam’s red light district.
East India House, Old Hoogstraat
'She walks through the main arch of the Old Hoogstraat entrance to the VOC house, near the armoury, where shields and breastplates are clanked and sorted for size. This place is the hub of the whole city, some might say the whole republic. Her father once told her that Amsterdam had funded over half the entire country’s war chest. He’d sounded suspicious of the city’s wealth and power, but mingled with that wariness was a wistful awe.'
Built in 1606 by Hendrick de Keyser to house the city armoury, this building became the headquarters of the East India Company (also known as the VOC), in the 17th century. The company which contributed a huge amount to Amsterdam’s immense wealth and was also the first company in the world to trade in shares. East India House is now home to the University of Amsterdam’s department of Sociology.
The Stadhuis (now The Royal Palace)
Originally built to serve as the city’s town hall and opened in 1655, The Stadhuis (now the Royal Palace) was designed by architect Jan van Campen, who aimed with his design to reflect the power and wealth of Amsterdam in the Dutch ‘Golden Age’.
[All images copyright Laura Cheeseman December 2017]