The centre of this composition is dominated by the Munttoren or Munt Tower (Coin Tower). The tower was originally part of the Regulierspoort, one of the main gates in Amsterdam's medieval city wall. The gate burned down in a 1618. However, the upper part of the tower was rebuilt two years later as an eight-sided structure with an elegant open spire, designed by sculptor and architect Hendrick de Keyser (1565–1621). It has four clock faces and a carillon (an instrument consisting of at least 23 bells).
The name Munttoren refers to the fact that the tower was formerly used to mint coins. After England and France declared war on the Dutch Republic in 1672, silver and gold could no longer be safely transported to Dordrecht and Enkhuizen, where coins were usually minted. Instead the guard house of the Munttoren temporarily functioned as a mint.
This work was formerly thought to be by Dutch painter Willem Koekkoek. It was reattributed to fellow Dutch artist Elias van Bommel after an art dealer, based in The Netherlands, wrote to the Government Art Collection in 2012 to report that they had a similar painting, signed by Bommel. Closer inspection revealed part of Bommel’s signature and the date 1868, to the lower right of the work.
Elias Pieter van Bommel was born in Amsterdam and studied at the Rijksacademie. He received tuition from George Andries Roth (1809-1887), who influenced his early preference for painting landscapes. Van Bommel travelled extensively, visiting Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary and Italy, and painted during these excursions. He exhibited in Amsterdam, The Hague, Groningen and Leeuwarden between 1833 and 1839, and between 1841 and 1859. Later in life, van Bommel moved to Vienna, Austria, where he died in 1890. His son, a painter of portraits and scenes from everyday life, lived in Munich.
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