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…

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…

The Milkmaid

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660, painting, SK-A-2344

A maid concentrates keenly as she pours milk from a jug. It is a quiet, tranquil scene. The only movement is the flow of milk. Vermeer turned a simple composition of a prosaic subject into an intense work of art. It is in the rendering of light that Vermeer truly excelled, painting tiny dots for…

Woman Reading a Letter

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1663, painting, SK-C-251

In a quiet, private moment, a young woman stands, engrossed in reading a letter. It is morning, and she is still wearing her blue nightrobe. All the other colours are subordinate to its radiant lapis lazuli; yellow and red hardly make an appearance. Vermeer rendered the different effects of the cool…

The Merry Family

Jan Havicksz. Steen, 1668, painting, SK-C-229

IYoung and old are having a wonderful time: mother and grandmother are singing, the children are playing music and smoking, and father raises his glass. The note on the mantelpiece comments poignantly: ‘as the old sing, so pipe the young’. Steen’s picture brings the saying to life and warns the…

Seated Cupid

Étienne-Maurice Falconet, 1757, BK-1963-101

This famous statue already had many nicknames in the 18th century. Perhaps the best known is l’amour menaçant - menacing love. The menace is mainly in the love god’s expression, while his gesture makes us complicit, through silence. The statue was carved for Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV…

Portrait of Andries de Graeff

Artus Quellinus (I), 1661, bust, BK-18305

The De Graeffs were one of the leading merchant families of Amsterdam and highly influential. Like his father and brother, Andries was also a burgomaster. The superb bust was carved by Quellinus, who had been brought from Antwerp to Amsterdam to create sculptures for the new town hall. The plinth…

Portrait of Michiel de Ruyter

Rombout Verhulst, 1677 - 1681, BK-NM-13150

Admiral De Ruyter was severely wounded in a battle against the French in the Mediterranean Sea in 1676. He died of his wounds and was buried in a place of honour in Amsterdam’s New Church. This bust was a model for the tomb.

Ten weepers from the tomb of…

Renier van Thienen (attributed to), c. 1475 - c. 1476, tomb figure, BK-AM-33-C

Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Limburg and count of Flanders, Holland and Zeeland, died in 1465. He had a superb tomb made for her at St Michiel’s Abbey in Antwerp. Around it stood 24 figures of grieving relatives and ancestors - called weepers. They…

Ten weepers from the tomb of…

Renier van Thienen (attributed to), c. 1475 - c. 1476, tomb figure, BK-AM-33-F

Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Limburg and count of Flanders, Holland and Zeeland, died in 1465. He had a superb tomb made for her at St Michiel’s Abbey in Antwerp. Around it stood 24 figures of grieving relatives and ancestors - called weepers. They…