Roemer with a poem to Constantijn…

anonymous, 1619, BK-1983-15

Anna Roemers Visscher engraved one of her own poems in a wineglass as a gift for Constantijn Huygens. The verse contains a complaint and an exhortation: her pen has dried up, her brain has rusted. She asks Huygens to fetch her some water from the Helicon – where the Muses live – so her ink will flow…

Self-portrait

Johan Gregor van der Schardt, c. 1573, bust, BK-2000-17

Blue Macaw

Meissener Porzellan Manufaktur, 1731, BK-17496

German scientists discovered the ingredients of Chinese porcelain in the 18th century. Elector August the Strong was such a fan of this hard, translucent white material that he filled his Japanese Palace in Dresden with porcelain objects. In the 1730s, he had a series of large birds and animals…

Clock and gunpowder horn

anonymous, c. 1590 - c. 1596, mechanical clock, NG-NM-7687

In 1596, Willem Barentsz, Jacob van Heemskerck and fifteen others spent the winter in an improvised shelter on the island of Nova Zembla off the north coast of Russia. Confined to their hut in the middle of the Polar winter, the men had no sense of night or day. A clock on the wall told the time,…

The Art Gallery of Jan…

Adriaan de Lelie, 1794 - 1795, painting, SK-A-4100

In 1792, Gildemeester, a merchant, turned two large rooms at his house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht into an art gallery. Here he stands proudly at the centre of the front room, speaking with one of his guests. Visitors are examining famous paintings, including a Rembrandt - above Gildemeester’s head.…

Portraits of Giuliano and Francesco…

Piero di Cosimo, 1482 - 1485, painting, SK-C-1368

This diptych shows a leading Florentine architect, Giuliano da Sangallo with his late father Francesco, also an architect and a musician. These are early examples of portraits in which the subject’s profession plays a key role. Here a pen and dividers suggest architecture, a melody in note form…

Militia Company of District II…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642, painting, SK-C-5

Rembrandt’s largest, most famous canvas was made for the Arquebusiers guild hall. This was one of several halls of Amsterdam’s civic guard, the city’s militia and police. Rembrandt was the first to paint figures in a group portrait actually doing something. The captain, dressed in black, is…

Portrait of a Woman, Possibly Maria…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1639, painting, SK-C-597

Maria Trip, daughter of one of Amsterdam’s wealthiest merchants, was twenty when Rembrandt painted her portrait. The artist placed Maria against a stone arch and devoted particular attention to the reflected light, the fashionable dress and jewellery. The costly garments are trimmed with strips of…

Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk…

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1649, painting, SK-C-217

Once a Catholic church, St Odulphus’s passed into Protestant hands at the start of the Dutch Revolt against Spain. The artist shows a service taking place. Worshippers are listening to the preacher on the right in the pulpit. Sermons are the main feature of a Protestant service. Saenredam came…

The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede

Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael, c. 1668 - c. 1670, painting, SK-C-211

Viewed from a low perspective, the mill contrasts majestically against the dark sky. The buildings further in the distance are the castle and St Maarten’s church at Wijk bij Duurstede, a major city in the Golden Age. The river in the foreground is the Lek. This is the epitome of a Dutch landscape:…