Clock and gunpowder horn

anonymous, c. 1590 - c. 1596, mechanical clock, NG-NM-7687

In 1596, Willem Barentsz, Jacob van Heemskerck and fifteen others spent the winter in an improvised shelter on the island of Nova Zembla off the north coast of Russia. Confined to their hut in the middle of the Polar winter, the men had no sense of night or day. A clock on the wall told the time,…

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…

Cupboard

Herman Doomer, c. 1635 - c. 1645, furniture, BK-1975-81

Among the possessions left by cabinetmaker Herman Doomer of Amsterdam was a costly ‘large ebony cupboard inlaid with mother-of-pearl’. It was probably this piece of furniture, which is veneered entirely with ebony and decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay. With its diagonally protruding corners and…

Desk

Abraham Roentgen, c. 1758 - c. 1760, BK-16676

This desk has numerous secret compartments and drawers and even includes a fold-out prie-dieu. It was made for Johann Philipp von Walderdorff, archbishop and elector of Trier, and is decorated at the top with his portrait and heraldic arms. The desk is the most expensive showpiece ever made by…

Dolls’ house of Petronella Oortman

anonymous, c. 1686 - c. 1710, furniture, BK-NM-1010

The exterior of this dolls house is a work of art in its own right, with its mother-of-pearl and pewter veneer. The owners’ initials - Petronella Oortman and her husband Johannes Brandt, a cloth merchant in Amsterdam - are inlaid on both sides. Remarkably, all the domestic furnishings were made…

The bodhisattva Manjushri

anonymous, c. 800 - c. 900, figure, AK-MAK-240

In China, Manjushri is venerated as one of the first advocates of Buddhism. On Java he appears as a young man wearing straps of jewellery across his chest. This Manjushri is probably gesturing the turning of the wheel of wisdom: this symbolises the start of the Buddhist cycle of learning and the…

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…

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…

Table ornament

Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1549, table peace, BK-17040-A

This receptacle stood on the table on special occasions. Although it was never used for food, since it was far too precious. It was made for the city of Nuremberg in 1549 by Wenzel Jamnitzer, then a world-famous silversmith. Jamnitzer produced incredibly intricate work using a new method. All the…

Chest with nine porcelain bottles

anonymous, c. 1680 - c. 1700, chest, NG-444

The box was probably made in Batavia (Jakarta). The bottles are from Japan. They would have been used for expensive spice oils to prepare food, perfumes or medicines. Representatives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) would present these as gifts to Asian potentates.