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…

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…

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.…

Fishing for Souls

Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, 1614, painting, SK-A-447

Protestants (left) and Catholics (right) are competing for adherents by a river. The politicsal nature of the struggle between Protestants and Catholics is reflected in the presence of powerful rivals on either side. Left: Stadholder Prince Maurice and his brother Frederick Henry with their allies.…

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…

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 I, Prince of Oranje

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…

Portrait of Don Ramón Satué

Francisco de Goya, 1823, painting, SK-A-2963

Goya was well-known as a court-painter and for his idiosyncratic prints. He had already turned 76 when he painted this powerful portrait. Don Ramón was a judge in the highest tribunal of Castile. The casual pose and open collar have an informality Goya usually reserves for the portraits of his most…