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…

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…

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…

Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk…

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1649, painting, SK-C-217

Once a Catholic church, St Odulphus’s passed into Protestant hands at the start of the Dutch Revolt against Spain. The artist shows a service taking place. Worshippers are listening to the preacher on the right in the pulpit. Sermons are the main feature of a Protestant service. Saenredam came…

The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede

Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael, c. 1668 - c. 1670, painting, SK-C-211

Viewed from a low perspective, the mill contrasts majestically against the dark sky. The buildings further in the distance are the castle and St Maarten’s church at Wijk bij Duurstede, a major city in the Golden Age. The river in the foreground is the Lek. This is the epitome of a Dutch landscape:…

Portrait of a Couple as Isaac and…

Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1665 - c. 1669, painting, SK-C-216

It seems that Rembrandt painted his subjects as the biblical couple, Isaac and Rebecca. Its popular name, the Jewish Bride, is a later invention. The portrait is painted with an extraordinarily free hand, as in the sleeve, where the paint is especially thick and shaped to reflect the light.

Portraits of Giuliano and Francesco…

Piero di Cosimo, 1482 - 1485, painting, SK-C-1367

This diptych shows a leading Florentine architect, Giuliano da Sangallo with his late father Francesco, also an architect and a musician. These are early examples of portraits in which the subject’s profession plays a key role. Here a pen and dividers suggest architecture, a melody in note form…

Mary Magdalene

Jan van Scorel, c. 1530, painting, SK-A-372

The woman is Mary Magdalen. A jar of ointment is her usual attribute, with which she is said to have tended Jesus’s feet. Van Scorel portrayed her as a seductive, lavishly dressed courtesan, a reference to her apparent origins as a prostitute. Her costume shows the influence of Italian painting on…

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 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…