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…

Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul

Rembrandt 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…

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…

Portrait of a Woman, Possibly Maria…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1639, painting, SK-C-597

Maria Trip, daughter of one of Amsterdam’s wealthiest merchants, was twenty when Rembrandt painted her portrait. The artist placed Maria against a stone arch and devoted particular attention to the reflected light, the fashionable dress and jewellery. The costly garments are trimmed with strips of…

Militia Company of District II…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642, painting, SK-C-5

Rembrandt’s largest, most famous canvas was made for the Arquebusiers guild hall. This was one of several halls of Amsterdam’s civic guard, the city’s militia and police. Rembrandt was the first to paint figures in a group portrait actually doing something. The captain, dressed in black, is…

The Merry Fiddler

Gerard van Honthorst, 1623, painting, SK-A-180

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,…

Portrait of Jacob Cornelisz van…

Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (workshop of), c. 1533, painting, SK-A-1405

Self portraits signal a growing awareness among artists of their own role. This work was long thought to be the earliest self portrait of an artist in the Northern Netherlands. Jacob Cornelisz is looking directly at the viewer; behind him on a piece of paper is the date, 1533, and the artist’s…

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…

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…