Desk

Abraham Roentgen, c. 1758 - c. 1760, BK-16676

This desk has numerous secret compartments and drawers and even includes a fold-out prie-dieu. It was made for Johann Philipp von Walderdorff, archbishop and elector of Trier, and is decorated at the top with his portrait and heraldic arms. The desk is the most expensive showpiece ever made by…

The Seven Works of Mercy

Master of Alkmaar, 1504, painting, SK-A-2815

A town in Holland is the setting for a narrative strip showing how a good Christian should help the needy. In almost all the scenes, Christ appears among the onlookers. The scenes give a sense of town life around 1500. This is one of the many art works severely damaged when Protestants cleansed…

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…

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…

The bodhisattva Manjushri

anonymous, c. 800 - c. 900, figure, AK-MAK-240

In China, Manjushri is venerated as one of the first advocates of Buddhism. On Java he appears as a young man wearing straps of jewellery across his chest. This Manjushri is probably gesturing the turning of the wheel of wisdom: this symbolises the start of the Buddhist cycle of learning and 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.…

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…