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…

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:…

Isaac and Rebecca, Known as ‘The…

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.

The Seven Works of Mercy

Master of Alkmaar, 1504, painting, SK-A-2815

A town in Holland is the setting for a narrative strip showing how a good Christian should help the needy. In almost all the scenes, Christ appears among the onlookers. The scenes give a sense of town life around 1500. This is one of the many art works severely damaged when Protestants cleansed…

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…

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…