It was founded in 1800 after the French example as National Art Gallery (Nationale Konst-Gallerij) in The Hague to exhibit the collections of the Dutch stadholders. In 1808 the museum moved to Amsterdam on the orders of King Louis Napoleon, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. The painting of the city, for example The Nightwatch by Rembrandt van Rijn, became part of the collection. In 1885 it moved to its current location, built by P. J. H. Cuypers. He combined gothic and renaissance elements. The building is richly decorated with referrals to the Dutch art history.
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