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.

Dolls’ house of Petronella Oortman

anonymous, c. 1686 - c. 1710, furniture, BK-NM-1010

The exterior of this dolls house is a work of art in its own right, with its mother-of-pearl and pewter veneer. The owners’ initials - Petronella Oortman and her husband Johannes Brandt, a cloth merchant in Amsterdam - are inlaid on both sides. Remarkably, all the domestic furnishings were made…

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…

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…

Guanyin

anonymous, c. 1100 - c. 1200, figure, AK-MAK-84

The Buddhist deity Guanyin, who rescues people in need, is shown here meditating, seated on a rock. According to legend, he was once discovered in this position, meditating on the moon’s reflection in the water - in Buddhism a symbol of illusion and transience. His pose and facial expression embody…

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 Battle of Waterloo

Jan Willem Pieneman, 1824, painting, SK-A-1115

Emperor Napoleon met his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This painting – the largest at the Rijksmuseum – shows the moment when the tide turned: the British general Wellington hears that the Prussian army is approaching. Victory, and an end to twenty years of war, is at hand. The…

Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, 1661, painting, SK-A-4050

Here, Rembrandt is about 55. In this portrait he represents St Paul, the apostle, identified by his usual attributes: a manuscript and a sword, of which the hilt extends from under the cloak. The self portrait is typical of Rembrandt’s late style of painting: he used the paint structure in the…