View of Houses in Delft, Known as…

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1658, painting, SK-A-2860

An unusual painting in Vermeer’s oeuvre: a few houses and a couple of people in a quiet street. Vermeer gave the scene a palpable sense of tension and balance. The old walls, worn bricks and white plaster are almost tangible. What part of Delft this shows is no longer known.

Guanyin

anonymous, c. 1100 - c. 1200, figure, AK-MAK-84

The Buddhist deity Guanyin, who rescues people in need, is shown here meditating, seated on a rock. According to legend, he was once discovered in this position, meditating on the moon’s reflection in the water - in Buddhism a symbol of illusion and transience. His pose and facial expression embody…

Blue Macaw

Meissener Porzellan Manufaktur, 1731, BK-17496

German scientists discovered the ingredients of Chinese porcelain in the 18th century. Elector August the Strong was such a fan of this hard, translucent white material that he filled his Japanese Palace in Dresden with porcelain objects. In the 1730s, he had a series of large birds and animals…

River Landscape with Riders

Aelbert Cuyp, 1653 - 1657, painting, SK-A-4118

Travellers are resting their horses in a sun-soaked river landscape. To judge from their orange shawls, they seem to be Dutch army officers. Cuyp saw these steep hills when he travelled along the River Rhine between Nijmegen and Cleves. It was probably the sketches he drew there that formed 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…

Floral Still Life

Hans Bollongier, 1639, painting, SK-A-799

While this ample bouquet appears quite natural, tulips, anemones, roses and carnations all have different seasons. Yet Bollongier combined them into a harmonious composition. This still life was painted following the financial collapse of 1637, when many lost their fortunes speculating in tulip…

A Pelican and other Birds near a…

Melchior d'Hondecoeter, c. 1680, painting, SK-A-175

Melchior d’Hondecoeter specialised in depicting birds. Here he painted a pelican, various ducks, a cassowary (left), a flamingo and an African crested crane. D’Hondecoeter was commissioned to paint the work by Stadholder William III and his wife Mary. It was intended for Het Loo palace, where…

Seated Cupid

Étienne-Maurice Falconet, 1757, BK-1963-101

This famous statue already had many nicknames in the 18th century. Perhaps the best known is l’amour menaçant - menacing love. The menace is mainly in the love god’s expression, while his gesture makes us complicit, through silence. The statue was carved for Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV…

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…

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…