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.…

Self-portrait

Vincent van Gogh, 1887, painting, SK-A-3262

After he heard his brother Theo describe the new colourful style of French art, Vincent decided in 1886 to move to Paris. He soon began experimenting with the new idiom in a series of self portraits. This was mainly to spare the expense of using models. Here he painted himself as a debonnaire…

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…

Portrait of a Member of the Van der…

Cornelis Troost, 1736, painting, SK-A-3948

The portrait conveys a sense of convivial hospitality, as if the man were inviting us into his home to enjoy his art and music. In a typically 18th-century way, the portrait has no sense of distance, of authority. It introduces us directly to the open personality of this enthusiastic young member of…

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…

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,…

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…

Floral Still Life

Hans Bollongier, 1639, painting, SK-A-799

While this ample bouquet appears quite natural, tulips, anemones, roses and carnations all have different seasons. Yet Bollongier combined them into a harmonious composition. This still life was painted following the financial collapse of 1637, when many lost their fortunes speculating in tulip…