Abraham Willet was a 19th-century socialite, who saw socialising as his main task in life. He was also passionate about art. Partly thanks to his wife's fortune, he was able to build up a rich and varied collection of Venetian glass, silver and German porcelain. He also collected weapons, rare art history books, photos, prints and contemporary Dutch and French paintings. Abraham's collection is one of the earliest private collections in the Netherlands.
Less is known about Louisa Willet-Holthuysen, but we do know that she was also interested in art. Louisa's contact with the outside world consisted of shopping with her companion Mathilde, for example, and walking her dogs. At that time, it was ‘not done’ for a married woman to appear in public without a companion. She often accompanied her husband to concerts in the evenings.
During the summer months, Abraham and Louisa travelled around Europe or spent time in their French country house just outside Paris. The couple did not have children and Louisa outlived her husband by several years. On her death in 1895, she bequeathed the house, contents and collection to the City of Amsterdam. The inheritance also included Abraham’s substantial art collection. Louisa's only condition was that her beautiful home should become a museum. So now, 120 years later, the house is still open to the public.