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…

Cupboard

Herman Doomer, c. 1635 - c. 1645, furniture, BK-1975-81

Among the possessions left by cabinetmaker Herman Doomer of Amsterdam was a costly ‘large ebony cupboard inlaid with mother-of-pearl’. It was probably this piece of furniture, which is veneered entirely with ebony and decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay. With its diagonally protruding corners and…

Table ornament

Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1549, table peace, BK-17040-A

This receptacle stood on the table on special occasions. Although it was never used for food, since it was far too precious. It was made for the city of Nuremberg in 1549 by Wenzel Jamnitzer, then a world-famous silversmith. Jamnitzer produced incredibly intricate work using a new method. All the…

Lidded ewer

Adam van Vianen (I), 1614, BK-1976-75

A Militiaman Holding a Berkemeyer,…

Frans Hals, c. 1628 - c. 1630, painting, SK-A-135

This cheery young man is raising his glass as if to propose a toast. Although the fashion was then for intricate, detailed paintings, Hals applied his paints with quick, confident strokes. This style of painting gives the subject a real sense of movement. This is most obvious with the right hand.

Still Life with Asparagus

Adriaen Coorte, 1697, painting, SK-A-2099

Most of Coorte’s paintings are small, intimate still lifes. With their simple subjects - asparagus, or berries - his paintings contrast starkly with the magnificent, extravagant still lifes then in vogue. Those pictures are all about the profusion of valuable objects and foods, while here the…

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…

A Pelican and other Birds near a…

Melchior d'Hondecoeter, c. 1680, painting, SK-A-175

Melchior d’Hondecoeter specialised in depicting birds. Here he painted a pelican, various ducks, a cassowary (left), a flamingo and an African crested crane. D’Hondecoeter was commissioned to paint the work by Stadholder William III and his wife Mary. It was intended for Het Loo palace, where…

Portrait of a Couple, Probably…

Frans Hals, c. 1622, painting, SK-A-133

The fabulously wealthy Haarlem merchant and his wife commissioned their friend Frans Hals to paint their portrait in an unusual way. Seventeenth-century couples rarely appear together in a single painting, especially in such a nonchalant pose. Hals included all kinds of symbols of love in the…