Banquet at the Crossbowmen’s Guild…

Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1648, painting, SK-C-2

Civic guards were the city’s militia. They were volunteers. In Amsterdam, each district had its own company with its own headquarters. In the 17th century, larger and grander buildings were built. Group portraits of the members lined the walls. In 1648, Van der Helst immortalised this Amsterdam…

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters

Hendrick Avercamp, c. 1608, painting, SK-A-1718

Hendrick Avercamp turned the winter landscape into a subject in its own right. A typical feature of his early work is the high horizon. This enabled Avercamp to focus on the dozens of figures on the ice. He showed all kinds of uncouth details in this bird’s-eye view, including couples making love…

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…

Ten weepers from the tomb of…

Jan Borman (II) (attributed to), Renier van Thienen (attributed to), c. 1475 - c. 1476, tomb figure, BK-AM-33-J

Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Limburg and count of Flanders, Holland and Zeeland, died in 1465. He had a superb tomb made for her at St Michiel’s Abbey in Antwerp. Around it stood 24 figures of grieving relatives and ancestors - called weepers. They…

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…

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…

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…

Square Man

Karel Appel, 1951, painting, SK-A-5002

The square man squeezes with difficulty into this square canvas. He seems to squint slightly with his red and green eyes and his blue mouth gapes open. The head is too big, the body is too small, and the arms and legs are too short, yet with his fiercely coloured body and his ponderous genitals, he…

View of Olinda, Brazil

Frans Jansz Post, 1662, painting, SK-A-742

Tempted by Brazil’s sugar plantations, in the 1630s the Dutch captured much of Portugal’s colony on South America’s western coast. They were forced to withdraw in the 1650s. Frans Post went to Brazil from 1636 to 1644 to sketch and paint the country and its inhabitants. Back in the Netherlands, he…

Twee toiletkoffers

André-Charles Boulle (attributed to), c. 1685 - c. 1690, BK-2009-255-1

These magnificent showpieces were made by Europe’s most celebrated cabinetmaker: André-Charles Boulle. He probably made them for Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé who gave them to his daughter Marie-Thérèse when she married. The boxes have lids so they can be used for storage, although that is…