Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba 1648


Room 15 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Claude (1604-1682) - Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba 1648
The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba has a rigorous linear perspective and there is a pronounced symmetry between the left and right hand sides. The canvas is roughly divided into fifths. The architecture and horizon are placed in a balanced way within this grid.

The Bible relates how the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10). Their meeting was often painted, but it was unusual to depict the Queen's embarkation. Many of Claude's paintings are concerned with the theme of journeying; here he creates an imaginary seaport.

Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire 1814


Room 15 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
JMW Turner (1775-1851) - Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire 1814
One of Turner's most ambitious imitations of the 17th-century French painter Claude. The subject, inspired by Virgil's epic Latin poem, the 'Aeneid', is the building of the North African city of Carthage, which Dido founded. The figure in blue on the left is Dido, and on the right is the tomb erected for her dead husband, Sichaeus. In front of Dido is a figure who may be Aeneas: Virgil tells of their love affair, and of Dido's suicide following his departure. Turner was attracted by the human contrast to the theme of empire building. Hints of doom contrast with the serene effects of sunlight.

In Turner's will he asked for this and his 'Sun Rising through Vapour' to be hung between Claude's 'Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba' and 'Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca' at the National Gallery.

A Woman Drinking with Two Men 1658


Room 16 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684) - A Woman Drinking with Two Men 1658
The main focus of the painting is the wine glass, held up by the girl on the left, which is brightly illuminated from the adjacent window. On the rear wall behind the table is a map of Holland and over the fireplace to the right, a painting showing the Education of the Virgin, which is similar to a picture (Ering, Esterhazy Chapel) which appears to have been painted in Flanders in the early 17th century.

This picture was probably painted in 1658, towards the end of de Hooch's stay in Delft. Many changes in the composition show the care with which the design was developed. The figures appear to have been added after the architectural features of the interior had been painted. Its chequered floor is visible through the skirt of the servant to the right, and technical photographs show that this figure was originally in conversation with a man standing on her left, a figure later concealed by the painter.

Flowers in a Vase (1685)


Room 17 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750) - Flowers in a Vase (1685)
Ruysch’s compositions are characterised by strong curves, diagonal axes, and dramatic lighting: here, light falls on the flowers from bottom left to top right, leaving the closed peonies at the edge in shadow. Against the dark background, her sophisticated palette creates a flawless sense of depth and three-dimensionality.

Ruysch studied with the still life painter Willem van Aelst, but she developed the style of her teacher towards a more decorative manner and a lighter palette. The artist’s father – a celebrated anatomist, botanist, and collector – was head of Amsterdam's botanical garden, so she had a precise knowledge of flowers and insects, shown here by the caterpillars, the ant and the grasshopper in the foreground.

Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures 1620


Room 17 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Flemish - Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures 1620
The large print on the table is 'Ceres mocked by Peasants' by Goudt after Elsheimer; in the open folio are prints by Dürer and Lucas van Leyden. The paintings on the wall are almost all by Antwerp artists of the 16th and 17th centuries and include works in the style of Joachim Beuckelaer, Joos de Momper, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Frans Francken.

This painting is one of a large number of scenes showing collectors and visitors in real or largely imaginary settings that were produced in Flanders in the 17th century. This example was probably painted in 1620. It may well be the work of two painters, one responsible for the figures and the other for the interior, which is probably largely imaginary but shows real objects owned by the collector.

The Adoration of the Kings 1598


Room 17 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) - The Adoration of the Kings 1598
In Turner's will he asked for this and his 'Sun Rising through Vapour' to be hung between Claude's 'Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba' and 'Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca' at the National Gallery.

In addition to the Adoration of the Kings, the shepherds are also present. This painting is a display of minute observation, from a woman with a baby conversing with a man on horseback at the left, to the still life of carpenter's tools in the lower right.

The Judgement of Paris (1597-9)


Room 18 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - The Judgement of Paris (1597-9)
Paris, seated with his back to the viewer, gives the prize of a golden apple to Venus, the central standing goddess, whom he judged to be the most beautiful of the three. To the left stands Juno who is angered by the choice, and to the right, turned away, Minerva, identifiable by the armour at her feet. Venus is accompanied by Cupid and crowned by a putto; another putto holds two doves. Paris is accompanied by Mercury at the left, and in the background two satyrs watch the contest. At the right a water god and a nymph recline on the ground.

This work was probably painted shortly before Rubens's departure for Italy in 1600.

Samson and Delilah (1609-1610)


Room 18 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - Samson and Delilah (1609-1610)
Samson, the Jewish hero, fell in love with Delilah. She was bribed by the Philistines, and discovered that his strength came from his hair which had never been cut. While he was asleep it was cut, Samson was drained of his strength and the Philistines were able to capture him. (Old Testament, Judges 16: 17-20). Rubens depicts a candlelit interior; the Philistines wait at the door, one of their number cuts Samson's hair, while an elderly woman provides extra light. In a niche behind is a statue of the goddess of love, Venus, with Cupid - a reference to the cause of Samson's fate.

This painting was commissioned by Nicolaas Rockox, alderman of Antwerp, for his town house in 1609-10. It shows the influence of the antique, as well as Michelangelo and Caravaggio. There is a preparatory drawing (private collection, Amsterdam) and a modello (Cincinnati Museum of Art).

Minerva protects Pax from Mars ('Peace and War')


Room 18 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - Minerva protects Pax from Mars ('Peace and War')
The central figure represents Pax (Peace) in the person of Ceres, goddess of the earth, sharing her bounty with the group of figures in the foreground. The children have been identified as portraits of the children of Rubens's host, Sir Balthasar Gerbier, a painter-diplomat in the service of Charles I.

The painting was probably executed in England in 1629-30, illustrating Rubens's hopes for the peace he was trying to negotiate between England and Spain in his role as envoy to Philip IV of Spain. Rubens presented the finished work to Charles I of England as a gift.

Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert 1611


Room 18 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert 1611
The modello (oil sketch) shows Saint Bavo on the steps of St Peter's church in Ghent. Before his conversion to Christianity, Saint Bavo was a knight called Count Allowin of Haspengouw. Here he is shown being received as a monk into the church by Saint Floribert (bending forward), abbot of the Benedictine monastery, and Saint Amandus, who converted him. In the foreground, Rubens has delighted in showing Saint Bavo's wealth being distributed to the poor; the wriggling children and the muscular beggars give the donation a heroic theatricality.

The painting was commissioned around 1611 for the high altar of St Bavo, Ghent.

River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants 1658


Room 19 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) - River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants 1658
This painting is one of the greatest 17th-century Dutch landscapes. It is the largest surviving landscape by Cuyp, and arguably the most beautiful. The entire scene is bathed in a gentle sunlight, harmonising all the elements, natural, animal and human. The quality of the light is Italianate. However, Cuyp never travelled to Italy, and he must have acquired this interest from Dutch contemporaries who did, such as Jan Both.

This design is focused more directly on the landscape than in earlier paintings by Cuyp on the same scale, and the figures and animals are more minutely painted. The low sunlit mountains which dominate the peaceful scene are not a feature of the Dutch landscape, but based on mountains seen by Cuyp on his travels in the early 1650s.

View of Westerkerk, Amsterdam 1660


Room 19 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) - View of Westerkerk, Amsterdam 1660
This painting is unusually large. It was commissioned by the governors of the Westerkerk, for their meeting room, where it remained until 1864. The date, which appears with a signature on the lowest step of one of the houses to the right, is unclear, but probably originally read '1660'. The church was a comparatively recent building at that time, begun in 1620 to the designs of Hendrick de Keyser and completed in 1638. It is shown from the east, across the Keizersgracht.

Characteristic of van der Heyden, who specialised in town views, is the way the picture is painted in every minute detail. The figures were added later, and interestingly, given the artist's attention to detail, their shadows and reflections in the water are missing.

Portrait of Francois Langlois (early 1630s)


Room 20 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) - Portrait of Francois Langlois (early 1630s)
François Langlois (1589 - 1647), known as 'Chiartres' after his native city of Chartres, was an engraver, art dealer and publisher who lived in Florence and Rome in the 1620s. It must have been in Italy that he first met Van Dyck. Langlois also acquired works of art for Charles I and other English collectors. In 1634 he settled in Paris, where he opened a successful shop selling books and prints and worked closely with many of the leading French artists of the day. Langlois was an accomplished amateur musician and is shown playing a musette - a small bagpipe - in this informal portrait. He is dressed as a savoyard, or itinerant shepherd and musician, a contemporary Arcadian fashion.

Van Dyck was a friend of Langlois for a number of years and the informality of the pose suggests the affection between artist and sitter. It was probably painted in the early 1630s when Van Dyck was still in Antwerp before his move to England.

The Balbi Children 1625-1627


Room 20 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) - The Balbi Children 1625-1627
Van Dyck used Genoa as his base during his six-year stay in Italy and spent most of 1625-7 in the city enjoying great success as a portraitist. This work, traditionally entitled 'The Balbi Children' because it belonged to the 18th-century collector, Costantino Balbi, shows three young aristocratic Genoese children who remain unidentified. It has been suggested that they are members of the de Franchi family, whose arms contained a black crow, but there is no documentary evidence to support this claim.

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Portrait of a Woman and Child 1620-1


Room 20 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) - Portrait of a Woman and Child 1620-1
Some of Van Dyck's most intimate and least formal portraits, such as this one, are those he painted of the predominantly bourgeois citizens of Antwerp and their families before his departure to Italy in 1621.

Van Dyck shows a sympathy and sense of animation in his early portraits. These are more like the portraits of Rubens than the more aristocratic subjects of Van Dyck's later works in England.

Portrait of Cornelis van Diest(?) and his Wife 1636-8


Room 21 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) - Portrait of Cornelis van Diest(?) and his Wife 1636-8
The single coat of arms in the background, which was probably added soon after the painting was completed, may also be significant for the identification of the sitters. While both of Govaert van Surpele’s wives were from distinguished families with their own coat of arms that would have been included in the painting, the family of Cornelis van Diest’s wife, Lucretia Courtois (d. 1645), lacked any armorial insignia.

Once thought to represent Govaert van Surpele (1593 - 1674) and his wife from Diest in South Brabant, the sitters in this portrait can now almost certainly be identified as belonging to the Antwerp branch of the same family. Cornelis [van Surpele] van Diest (d. 1663), dean of the guild of cloth manufacturers and captain of the city militia and his wife seem to be the more likely candidates to have been portrayed by Jordaens.

The Virgin and Child with Saints Zacharias, Elizabeth and John the Baptist 1620


Room 21 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) - The Virgin and Child with Saints Zacharias, Elizabeth and John the Baptist 1620
The theme is derived from the 'Meditations' of the so-called Pseudo-Bonaventura, a popular early renaissance text which recounts the visit of the infant John the Baptist with his parents, Saints Elizabeth and Zacharias, to the Virgin and Child. Accompanied by a lamb, Saint John releases a goldfinch. This bird was believed to have been splashed with the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion, so was seen as a symbol of the Passion.

This painting prabably dates from around 1620, and one other signed version is known to exist. The work exemplifies the vein of robust realism that Jordaens, in the wake of Rubens and Van Dyck, brought to the interpretation of religious subject matter.

Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?)('Le Chapeau de Paille') 1622-5


Room 21 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?)('Le Chapeau de Paille') 1622-5
This painting is one of the most famous by Rubens in the Collection. The title 'Le Chapeau de Paille' (meaning The Straw Hat) was first used in the 18th century. In fact the hat is not straw; 'paille' may be an error for 'poil', which is the French word for felt. The hat, which shades the face of the sitter, is the most prominent feature of the painting.

Susanna Fourment married her second husband Arnold Lunden in 1622. The portrait probably dates from about that time. The direct glance of the sitter from under the shadow of the hat, together with the ring on her finger, suggests that the painting is a marriage portrait.

The Watering Place 1615-22


Room 21 | ref: | viewed: 30NOV18
Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640) - The Watering Place 1615-22
The view depicted in the left middle ground of 'The Watering Place' is a slightly altered reduction of the landscape in 'A Shepherd with his Flock in a Woody Landscape'. They were probably executed about the same time, around 1615-22.

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Self Portrait at the Age of 34 1640


Room 22 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Rembrandt (1606-1669) - Self Portrait at the Age of 34 1640
This portrait shows Rembrandt at the height of his career, presenting himself in a self-assured pose wearing an elaborate costume in the fashion of the 16th century. It seems as if Rembrandt refers deliberately to his famous predecessors in this portrait, and thus places himself in the tradition of great 'Old Masters'. The word 'conterfeycel' (more properly conterfeytsel) is an archaic Dutch term for portrait.

This painting is closely related to a self portrait etching made by Rembrandt in the previous year, 1639. In both the print and the painting the composition is influenced by Raphael's 'Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione' (Paris, Louvre), by Titian's Portrait of Gerolamo (?) Barbarigo in the National Gallery and by Albrecht Dürer's 'Self Portrait' of 1498 (Madrid, Prado).

Self Portrait at the Age of 63 1669


Room 22 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Rembrandt (1606-1669) - Self Portrait at the Age of 63 1669
This work was painted in the final year of Rembrandt's life and is one of his last pictures. He died on 4 October 1669 and was buried in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.

Rembrandt painted more self portraits than any other artist of the 17th century. The National Gallery has two of them, separated by nearly thirty years. In this late picture, the artist wears a deep red coat and a beret, his hands clasped before him. The viewer is confronted by his steady gaze. Rembrandt painted and etched self portraits throughout his life, but those executed in his final years, in which he presents himself in a reflective mood, are among the most poignant and challenging.

A woman bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?) 1654


Room 22 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Rembrandt (1606-1669) - A woman bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?) 1654
The model is probably Hendrickje Stoffels (about 1625/6 - 1663). She lived in Rembrandt's household from about 1649 until her death. She became his common-law wife and bore him a daughter, Cornelia, who was baptised on 30 October 1654 (the year of this painting).

It has been suggested that the sumptuous red robe on the river bank indicates that the painting might be a sketch for a religious or mythological picture; the model might be in the guise of an Old Testament heroine, such as Susanna or Bathsheba, or the goddess Diana, who were all spied upon by men while bathing. However, there is no evidence for a completed painting after this work and, moreover, Rembrandt did not use oil sketches as preparation for larger-scale paintings.

Portrait of a Lady in Black Satin with a Fan 1644


Room 23 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670) - Portrait of a Lady in Black Satin with a Fan 1644
Nothing is known of the identity of this elegantly dressed sitter.

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Portrait of a Man holding Gloves 1645


Room 23 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Frans Hals (1582-1666) - Portrait of a Man holding Gloves 1645
With one arm akimbo and one hand firmly holding a pair of gloves, the man in the picture confidently confronts the viewer. The flat planes which describe the head and the bold strokes of the heavily loaded brush emphasise the energetic character of the sitter, who, however, remains unidentified. His clothes appear to date from the mid-1640s.

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Four Officers of the Amsterdam Coopers and Wine-rackers Guild 1657


Room 23 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-1674) - Four Officers of the Amsterdam Coopers and Wine-rackers Guild 1657
This group portrait shows the officials of the guild, which included men who made barrels for the wine imported into Amsterdam and those who sampled and bottled it. The painter's brother Jan is listed among the names which appear in the document on the table, but he has not been identified. In the background is a painting of Saint Matthias, patron saint of the coopers, and the tools carved into the frame are those used by the coopers in the making of the barrels. The name of the guild is written on the seal which hangs over the edge of the table.

This type of group portrait, showing the officials of a guild, charitable organisation or civic body, was very popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century.

The Judgement of Paris 1615


Room 24 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) - The Judgement of Paris 1615
The artist has given the figures, with their characteristically contrived poses, an opulent setting filled with flowers and a variety of animals. This painting is unusual in combining the Judgement of Paris with the wedding scene (right background). The subject, giving prominence the female nude from a variety of angles, was a popular one in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and is the theme of an early painting by Rubens in the National Gallery's Collection ('The Judgement of Paris').

The subject derives from Homer's 'Iliad' (XXIV, 25-30). Jupiter sent Eris, the personification of strife, to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and she provoked a quarrel between Juno, Minerva and Venus as to who was the most beautiful. Mercury brought the goddesses to the shepherd Paris to be judged. In the foreground Paris hands the golden apple marked 'to the fairest' to Venus; Juno is on the left and Minerva (with helmet and spears) on the right. Paris' choice led to the outbreak of the Trojan war. Paris is seated in the centre with Mercury behind him.

Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist 1630


Room 24 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Matthias Stom (c1600-1652) - Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist 1630
When Saint John the Baptist was imprisoned by King Herod, Herodias, wife of Herod, persuaded her daughter, Salome, to ask for the Baptist's head on a charger (Mark 6: 17-28).

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Belshazzars Feast 1636


Room 24 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Rembrandt (1606-1669) - Belshazzars Feast 1636
Rembrandt's source for this painting, the Old Testament Book of Daniel (5: 1-6, 25-8), tells of a banquet Belshazzar, Regent of Babylon, gave for his nobles. At this banquet he blasphemously served wine in the sacred vessels one of his predecessors had looted from the Temple in Jerusalem.

Rembrandt derived the form of Hebrew inscription from a book by his friend, the learned Rabbi and printer, Menasseh ben Israel.

Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon 1588


Room 24 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638) - Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon 1588
This gruesome episode comes from the story of Cadmus which is told in Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (III: 1-151). Cadmus was sent by the Delphic oracle to follow a cow and build a town where it sank from exhaustion. The cow stopped on the future site of Thebes, and Cadmus, intending to sacrifice it, sent his followers to get water from the neighbouring well of Ares. They were killed by the guardian of the well, a dragon who was the son of Ares. Cadmus then killed the dragon and on the advice of Athena sowed its teeth in the ground, from which sprang up armed men who slew each other, with the exception of five who became the ancestors of the Thebans.

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Young Man holding a Skull (Vanitas) 1626


Room 25 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Frans Hals (1582-1666) - Young Man holding a Skull (Vanitas) 1626
This painting is not a portrait. The skull held by the boy is a reminder of the transience of life and the certainty of death. Such a subject is known as a 'Vanitas' (Latin for vanity), a name derived from a verse in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 12: 8), 'Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity.'

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Still Life: Pweter and Silver Vessels and a Crab 1633-7


Room 25 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Willem Claesz Heda (1593-1680) - Still Life: Pweter and Silver Vessels and a Crab 1633-7
Pewter and silver vessels, a crab, a lemon, a knife and a glass are seen on a table. The muted tonality and limited range of objects on the table seems to evoke an impression of modesty and restraint. However, quite the opposite is true. The lemon, salt and pepper, as well as the silver and pewter vessels, were expensive luxury items, available only to wealthy Dutchmen. The restrained colour range reflects the Haarlem tradition of the so-called 'monochromatic' still life. This work was previously attributed to Gerrit Willemsz. Heda but is now thought to be by his father Willem Claesz. Heda on the basis of comparison with a signed picture by him of the mid-1630s (Sweden, Oppenheimer collection).

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Peasants with Mules and Oxen on a Track near a River1641


Room 26 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Jan Both (1615-1652) - Peasants with Mules and Oxen on a Track near a River1641
Both spent several years in Italy and made drawings of the countryside around Rome. In this painting he employs a high viewpoint which creates a wide vista. The branches and leaves of the trees, some tinged by sunlight, are painted with the kind of painstaking detail possible on a copper panel.

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A scene on the Ice near a Town 1615


Room 27 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634) - A scene on the Ice near a Town 1615
Under the pale winter sky a frozen waterway receding into the far distance provides the stage for lively diversions upon the ice, such as 'kolf' (an early form of golf). It has been suggested that the town is Kampen, where Avercamp lived and worked, but it is more likely to be imaginary.

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Anna and the Blind Tobit 1630


Room 27 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Rembrandt (1606-1669) - Anna and the Blind Tobit 1630
The story of Anna, her husband Tobit and their son Tobias is told in the apocryphal Book of Tobit. God tested them by reducing them to poverty and causing Tobit's blindness. In the 17th century they were considered to be examples of piety in adversity.

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An Architectural Fantasy 1634


Room 27 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Dirck van Delen (1604-1671) - An Architectural Fantasy 1634
The fountain in the foreground is surmounted by a statue of Hercules fighting Hydra. Two of the other statues may represent Mercury and Minerva. The elegantly dressed figures are by another painter, perhaps Jan Olis (about 1610 - 1676) or Anthonie Palamedesz. (1601 - 1673).

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An Alchemist 1661


Room 27 | ref: | viewed: 20DEC18
Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) - An Alchemist 1661
This painting, which is signed and dated 1661 on the shovel beside the fireplace, combines a minutely observed interior with a direct satire on human folly. The old belief that alchemists could turn base metals into silver and gold survived until the 18th century, and other Dutch paintings of the 17th century satirised the same theme. Here, the paper beside the stool bears an inscription from the treatise 'De Re Metallica' by Agricola (1556): 'oleum et operam perdis' ('oil and work is wasted'). Prominence is given to the still life of varied utensils in the foreground, while the alchemist's family - a mother wiping her baby's bottom - is relegated to the background.

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Soldiers fighting over Booty in a Barn 1623


Room 28 | ref: | viewed: 02JAN19
Willem Duyster (1599-1635) - Soldiers fighting over Booty in a Barn 1623
Duyster's treatment of the subject is meant to be satirical. The soldiers, who are fighting over the distribution of booty, are dressed in elaborate finery entirely unsuited to the battlefield. For example, one would not expect the pink clothing of the man on the left to appear in a serious fight.