The Sampling Officials of the…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1662, painting, SK-C-6

Samplers checked the quality of dyed cloth. Here Rembrandt shows them at work, distracted for a moment and looking up. One syndic is about to sit, or stand, so not all the heads are at the same level. A clever trick which, with the confident brushwork and subtle use of light, make this one of the…

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,…

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 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…

Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue

Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck, 1641, painting, SK-A-3064

What made this such a popular portrait? That it shows a pretty child dressed in her finest clothes? As was usual at the time, the girl actually has an adult appearance. Her facial expression is all that shows she is playing the role. Unfortunately, we no longer know who she was.

Italian Landscape with a…

Jan Both, c. 1650 - c. 1652, painting, SK-C-109

An artist has found a place to sketch by a wood, near a waterfall – perhaps it is Both himself. Travellers with heavy-laden mules are walking towards a plain bathed in Italian sun. Both was clearly fascinated by the Mediterranean light and stayed in Rome for a long time. Back in the Netherlands, he…

Woman Reading a Letter

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1663, painting, SK-C-251

In a quiet, private moment, a young woman stands, engrossed in reading a letter. It is morning, and she is still wearing her blue nightrobe. All the other colours are subordinate to its radiant lapis lazuli; yellow and red hardly make an appearance. Vermeer rendered the different effects of the cool…

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…

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.…

Still Life with a Gilt Cup

Willem Claesz. Heda, 1635, painting, SK-A-4830

In forty years, Willem Heda only ever painted still lifes. His paintings differ from the still lifes of his contemporaries: the colours are gentler, cooler and more harmonious. The bright yellow lemon peel is the only colour accent. In this work, Heda shows his skill in rendering different…