The Milkmaid

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660, painting, SK-A-2344

A maid concentrates keenly as she pours milk from a jug. It is a quiet, tranquil scene. The only movement is the flow of milk. Vermeer turned a simple composition of a prosaic subject into an intense work of art. It is in the rendering of light that Vermeer truly excelled, painting tiny dots for…

The Fête champêtre

Dirck Hals, 1627, painting, SK-A-1796

Dirck Hals mostly painted people enjoying themselves, yet often included a moral message. In this painting of an ostensibly frivolous party, the chained monkey in the foreground represents man living in sin and unable to free himself. It is an admonition to the viewer to avoid licentious behaviour.…

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…

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…

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…

Worship of the Golden Calf

Lucas van Leyden, c. 1530, painting, SK-A-3841

Gallant Conversation, Known as ‘The…

Gerard ter Borch (II), c. 1654, painting, SK-A-404

A man of the world, a soldier perhaps, is looking admiringly at the young woman in the splendid satin dress. They were once thought to be father and daughter. But perhaps the man is the woman’s suitor, and the older woman is a chaperone. The young woman’s pose, standing with her back to the viewer,…

The Singel Bridge at the…

George Hendrik Breitner, 1898, painting, SK-A-3580

Breitner often took photos when preparing a painting. Several preparatory photos for this painting are also known. The way the woman is walking directly towards us and the way the picture is cropped gives it a photographic feel. Originally, Breitner’s subject was a maid, but following the negative…

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 Massacre of the Innocents

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, 1590, painting, SK-A-128