The Meeting of Joachim and Anna

Meester van Joachim en Anna, c. 1470, BK-NM-88

Joachim and Anna were childless for many years. Until Anna’s prayers were answered and she miraculously conceived a daughter, Mary. Joyous at the news, they embrace each other tenderly. This intimate, almost timeless scene was once part of a large altar depicting stories about the life of the Virgin…

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…

Portraits of Giuliano and Francesco…

Piero di Cosimo, 1482 - 1485, painting, SK-C-1367

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…

Mary Magdalene

Jan van Scorel, c. 1530, painting, SK-A-372

The woman is Mary Magdalen. A jar of ointment is her usual attribute, with which she is said to have tended Jesus’s feet. Van Scorel portrayed her as a seductive, lavishly dressed courtesan, a reference to her apparent origins as a prostitute. Her costume shows the influence of Italian painting on…

The Sampling Officials of the…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1662, painting, SK-C-6

Samplers checked the quality of dyed cloth. Here Rembrandt shows them at work, distracted for a moment and looking up. One syndic is about to sit, or stand, so not all the heads are at the same level. A clever trick which, with the confident brushwork and subtle use of light, make this one of the…

The Holy Kinship

Geertgen tot Sint Jans (workshop of), c. 1495, painting, SK-A-500

Christ’s family is gathered together in this fictional medieval church: the Holy Family, known in Dutch as the holy ‘maagschap’, an old word for kinship. Left, in a blue robe, the Virgin Mary is seated with Jesus, and alongside, her mother Anna. Behind are the two husbands: Joseph and Joachim.…

The Singel Bridge at the…

George Hendrik Breitner, 1898, painting, SK-A-3580

Breitner often took photos when preparing a painting. Several preparatory photos for this painting are also known. The way the woman is walking directly towards us and the way the picture is cropped gives it a photographic feel. Originally, Breitner’s subject was a maid, but following the negative…

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters

Hendrick Avercamp, c. 1608, painting, SK-A-1718

Hendrick Avercamp turned the winter landscape into a subject in its own right. A typical feature of his early work is the high horizon. This enabled Avercamp to focus on the dozens of figures on the ice. He showed all kinds of uncouth details in this bird’s-eye view, including couples making love…

Italian Landscape with a…

Jan Both, c. 1650 - c. 1652, painting, SK-C-109

An artist has found a place to sketch by a wood, near a waterfall – perhaps it is Both himself. Travellers with heavy-laden mules are walking towards a plain bathed in Italian sun. Both was clearly fascinated by the Mediterranean light and stayed in Rome for a long time. Back in the Netherlands, he…