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,…

Self-portrait

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

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…

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.…

Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1661, painting, SK-A-4050

Here, Rembrandt is about 55. In this portrait he represents St Paul, the apostle, identified by his usual attributes: a manuscript and a sword, of which the hilt extends from under the cloak. The self portrait is typical of Rembrandt’s late style of painting: he used the paint structure in the…

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…

Self-portrait

Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1628, painting, SK-A-4691

Despite his lack of experience, the young Rembrandt was not afraid to experiment. In this early self portrait the light brushes past his right cheek. The rest of the face is cloaked in shadow. It takes a moment to realise that the artist is staring intently, directly at the viewer. Rembrandt used…

Girl in a White Kimono

George Hendrik Breitner, 1894, painting, SK-A-3584

Inspired by Japanese prints, Breitner painted at least twelve versions of this girl in a white kimono around 1894. Each time, her pose is different and the kimono is a different colour. Here the embroidered white silk kimono with red trimmed sleeves and orange belt are what draw our attention. The…

Gallant Conversation, Known as ‘The…

Gerard ter Borch (II), c. 1654, painting, SK-A-404

A man of the world, a soldier perhaps, is looking admiringly at the young woman in the splendid satin dress. They were once thought to be father and daughter. But perhaps the man is the woman’s suitor, and the older woman is a chaperone. The young woman’s pose, standing with her back to the viewer,…

The Battle of Terheide

Willem van de Velde (I), 1657, painting, SK-A-1365

English ships blockaded the Dutch Republic’s harbours in 1653. While leading an attempt to break the blockade, the Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp was killed. His family commissioned this painting of his final battle to commemorate his death. It still has its original frame, featuring the heraldic arms…