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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…

On display in room 1.12

The Sampling Officials of the…

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1662, painting, SK-C-6

Samplers checked the quality of dyed cloth. Here Rembrandt shows them at work, distracted for a moment and looking up. One syndic is about to sit, or stand, so not all the heads are at the same level. A clever trick which, with the confident brushwork and subtle use of light, make this one of the…

On display in Gallery of Honour

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…

On display in room 2.6

Woman Reading a Letter

Johannes Vermeer, c. 1663, painting, SK-C-251

In a quiet, private moment, a young woman stands, engrossed in reading a letter. It is morning, and she is still wearing her blue nightrobe. All the other colours are subordinate to its radiant lapis lazuli; yellow and red hardly make an appearance. Vermeer rendered the different effects of the cool…

On display in Gallery of Honour

The Merry Family

Jan Havicksz. Steen, 1668, painting, SK-C-229

IYoung and old are having a wonderful time: mother and grandmother are singing, the children are playing music and smoking, and father raises his glass. The note on the mantelpiece comments poignantly: ‘as the old sing, so pipe the young’. Steen’s picture brings the saying to life and warns the…

On display in Gallery of Honour

Still Life with Cheese

Floris Claesz. van Dijck, c. 1615, painting, SK-A-4821

Food is arranged here on a costly damask tablecloth: fruit, bread, cheese. In the 17th century, this kind of painting was known as a ‘breakfast’. Vivid colours contrast with each other. Each item is carefully placed. And by viewing the table from a high angle, Van Dijck ensured that no object was…

On display in Gallery of Honour

Portrait of a Couple, Probably…

Frans Hals, c. 1622, painting, SK-A-133

The fabulously wealthy Haarlem merchant and his wife commissioned their friend Frans Hals to paint their portrait in an unusual way. Seventeenth-century couples rarely appear together in a single painting, especially in such a nonchalant pose. Hals included all kinds of symbols of love in the…

On display in Gallery of Honour

Portrait of William I, Prince of…

Adriaen Thomasz. Key, c. 1579, painting, SK-A-3148

Of all the nobles in the Low Countries to join the revolt against the Spanish crown, the foremost was William of Orange (1533-1584). Raised at the court of Charles V, he was a consummate diplomat: hence his nickname, the Silent. He emerged as the leader of the insurrection against Spain. In 1580,…

On display in room 2.1

Table ornament

Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1549, table piece, 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…

On display in room 2.3

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…

On display in room 1.4