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,…

Cabinet of a militia company

anonymous, c. 1520 - c. 1530, furniture, BK-KOG-656

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…

Chest with nine porcelain bottles

anonymous, c. 1680 - c. 1700, chest, NG-444

The box was probably made in Batavia (Jakarta). The bottles are from Japan. They would have been used for expensive spice oils to prepare food, perfumes or medicines. Representatives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) would present these as gifts to Asian potentates.

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…

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…

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…

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…