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…

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…

Fishing for Souls

Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, 1614, painting, SK-A-447

Protestants (left) and Catholics (right) are competing for adherents by a river. The politicsal nature of the struggle between Protestants and Catholics is reflected in the presence of powerful rivals on either side. Left: Stadholder Prince Maurice and his brother Frederick Henry with their allies.…

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…

Self-portrait

Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1628, painting, SK-A-4691

Despite his lack of experience, the young Rembrandt was not afraid to experiment. In this early self portrait the light brushes past his right cheek. The rest of the face is cloaked in shadow. It takes a moment to realise that the artist is staring intently, directly at the viewer. Rembrandt used…

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…

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 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.…

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…