The Well-stocked Kitchen, with…

Joachim Bueckelaer, 1566, painting, SK-A-1451

It is not the profusion of vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry and kitchenware displayed here by these housemaids that forms the main theme of this painting. It is Jesus visiting Mary and Martha, shown almost as an aside in the distance. The contrast between foreground and background contains the moral…

A Windmill on a Polder Waterway,…

Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël, c. 1889, painting, SK-A-1505

‘Our country is colourful, juicy, fat. (...) I repeat, our country is not dull, not even in dull weather, the dunes are not dull either’, Constant Gabriël wrote in a letter. Unlike many artists of the Hague School, he preferred painting fine summer days. Here there are two: the grass, sky and…

The Fête champêtre

Dirck Hals, 1627, painting, SK-A-1796

Dirck Hals mostly painted people enjoying themselves, yet often included a moral message. In this painting of an ostensibly frivolous party, the chained monkey in the foreground represents man living in sin and unable to free himself. It is an admonition to the viewer to avoid licentious behaviour.…

Banquet at the Crossbowmen’s Guild…

Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1648, painting, SK-C-2

Civic guards were the city’s militia. They were volunteers. In Amsterdam, each district had its own company with its own headquarters. In the 17th century, larger and grander buildings were built. Group portraits of the members lined the walls. In 1648, Van der Helst immortalised this Amsterdam…

A Pelican and other Birds near a…

Melchior d'Hondecoeter, c. 1680, painting, SK-A-175

Melchior d’Hondecoeter specialised in depicting birds. Here he painted a pelican, various ducks, a cassowary (left), a flamingo and an African crested crane. D’Hondecoeter was commissioned to paint the work by Stadholder William III and his wife Mary. It was intended for Het Loo palace, where…

William of Orange

Adriaen Thomasz. Key, c. 1579, painting, SK-A-3148

Of all the nobles in the Low Countries to join the revolt against the Spanish crown, the foremost was William of Orange (1533-1584). Raised at the court of Charles V, he was a consummate diplomat: hence his nickname, the Silent. He emerged as the leader of the insurrection against Spain. In 1580,…

The Sick Child

Gabriël Metsu, c. 1664 - c. 1666, painting, SK-A-3059

A worried mother looks at her young daughter, slumped listlessly on her lap. Metsu chose an unusual subject, since depictions of poorly children are rare in 17th-century art. Perhaps he intended the mother to personify charity, Caritas. Then the picture of the Crucifixion on the wall would be a…

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.…

Lidded ewer

Adam van Vianen (I), 1614, BK-1976-75

Shiva Nataraja

anonymous, c. 1100 - c. 1200, figure, AK-MAK-187

Shiva is depicted here as Nataraja (Lord of the Dance), standing in a ring of fire in the anandatandava position. He is both the creator and destroyer of the world. He is standing on a dwarf, symbolising ignorance. Richly decorated bronze statues of Hindu gods like this are carried in processions…