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,…

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…

Ten weepers from the tomb of…

Renier van Thienen (attributed to), c. 1475 - c. 1476, tomb figure, BK-AM-33-C

Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Limburg and count of Flanders, Holland and Zeeland, died in 1465. He had a superb tomb made for her at St Michiel’s Abbey in Antwerp. Around it stood 24 figures of grieving relatives and ancestors - called weepers. They…

The Well-stocked Kitchen

Joachim Bueckelaer, 1566, painting, SK-A-1451

It is not the profusion of vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry and kitchenware displayed here by these housemaids that forms the main theme of this painting. It is Jesus visiting Mary and Martha, shown almost as an aside in the distance. The contrast between foreground and background contains the moral…

A Windmill on a Polder Waterway,…

Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël, c. 1889, painting, SK-A-1505

‘Our country is colourful, juicy, fat. (...) I repeat, our country is not dull, not even in dull weather, the dunes are not dull either’, Constant Gabriël wrote in a letter. Unlike many artists of the Hague School, he preferred painting fine summer days. Here there are two: the grass, sky and…

Worship of the Golden Calf

Lucas van Leyden, c. 1530, painting, SK-A-3841

Self-portrait

Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1628, painting, SK-A-4691

Despite his lack of experience, the young Rembrandt was not afraid to experiment. In this early self portrait the light brushes past his right cheek. The rest of the face is cloaked in shadow. It takes a moment to realise that the artist is staring intently, directly at the viewer. Rembrandt used…

The Singel Bridge at the…

George Hendrik Breitner, 1898, painting, SK-A-3580

Breitner often took photos when preparing a painting. Several preparatory photos for this painting are also known. The way the woman is walking directly towards us and the way the picture is cropped gives it a photographic feel. Originally, Breitner’s subject was a maid, but following the negative…

Gallant Conversation, Known as ‘The…

Gerard ter Borch (II), c. 1654, painting, SK-A-404

A man of the world, a soldier perhaps, is looking admiringly at the young woman in the splendid satin dress. They were once thought to be father and daughter. But perhaps the man is the woman’s suitor, and the older woman is a chaperone. The young woman’s pose, standing with her back to the viewer,…

The Battle of Terheide

Willem van de Velde (I), 1657, painting, SK-A-1365

English ships blockaded the Dutch Republic’s harbours in 1653. While leading an attempt to break the blockade, the Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp was killed. His family commissioned this painting of his final battle to commemorate his death. It still has its original frame, featuring the heraldic arms…