Amsterdam through Donna Tartt’s eyes.

Amsterdam through Donna Tartt’s eyes.

Donna Tartt is a bit of a sensation the world over, due to the two best-sellers she managed to pen during the last twenty or so years. Off late, the fortunes of this famous author have started to affect Amsterdam, because the city is where her third novel, The Goldfinch, is partly set.


Tartt, who’s been a regular to Amsterdam since 1993, caused quite a stir when her last novel came out. The writer site Language Is A Virus describes the excitement surrounding Tartt’s visit to Amsterdam last September as ‘unprecedented’ for a writer.  


The author herself also still can't believe it. ''It was amazing! 'I'd be walking down the street and people would pop out in front of me and take my picture. College kids running out of pubs and shaking my hand. People coming up and giving me flowers”, she told the site. “I was standing by a canal having my picture made by a photographer, and the people on the canal boat waved and yelled 'Donna! Waaaah!'''


So what would you look out for if you want to see Amsterdam through Tartt’s eyes? Well, for starters, you’ll be soaking up Rembrandt’s world. The Goldfinch, you see, is the title of a painting by Rembrandt’s most gifted student Carel Fabritius. He used to live in the Runstraat, which is tucked between the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht in the centre. The novel’s protagonist, Theo Decker, loses his mother in an explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is instructed by a dying man to rescue -if anything- the goldfinch painting. The rest of the story pretty much revolves only around Decker’s subsequent decision in an Amsterdam hotel to not return the painting, which is presumed destroyed.


Apparently, the hotel Decker stays at happens to be Amsterdam’s ‘writer’s hotel’, Ambassade. Mentioning this might be a bit of a faux pas for my post on this Amsterdam Apartments blog, as we pride ourselves on luring people away from the hotels and offering guests greater privacy in our apartments. But hey ho, as curve balls come, this is rather a mild one. So, by all means, do go and marvel at the sight of the Ambassade in the Herengracht. Just don’t stay there!


One of a few eery issues involved with this novel is that Fabritius was also killed in an explosion. Most of his works were destroyed except for the goldfinch which is reckoned by observers to be the finest of the works that survived.


It’s slightly disappointing that Amsterdam is not home to the goldfinch painting, which Tartt claims is in reality the “missing link”  between Rembrandt and Vermeer. The painting has been sent on a world tour to Japan, Italy and the US along with a number of other seminal works, including Vermeer’s much fabled Girl with the Pearl Earring. It is on show until January 19th 2014 in New York in the Frick Collection after which it returns to its home The Hague’s Mauritshuis.  


But if it’s any consolation, two of Fabritius’ other works are on display in the Rijksmuseum; his Abraham de Potter painting and the Beheading of John the Baptist.