• The Annunciation Jan Van Eyck 

    The Annunciation is an oil painting by the Early Netherlandish master Jan van Eyck, from around 1434-1436. It is in the National Gallery of Art, in Washington D.C. It was originally on panel but has been transferred to canvas. It is thought that it was the left (inner) wing of a tryptych; there has been no sighting of the other wings since before 1817. It is a highly complex work, whose iconography is still debated by art historians.

    The picture depicts the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The inscription shows his words: "AVE GRÃ. PLENA" or "Hail, full of grace...". She modestly draws back and responds, "ECCE ANCILLA DÑI." or "Behold thehandmaiden of the Lord". Her words are painted upside down for God above to see. The Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit descend to her on seven rays of light from the upper window to the left, with the dove symbolising the Holy Spirit following the same path. "This is the moment God's plan for salvation is set in motion. Through Christ's human incarnation the old era of the Law is transformed into a new era of Grace"


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    What appears to be two sprays of the 'viburnum opulus roseum' shrub - the Guelder rose - is in fact a costly hairpin by the famous designer René Lalique. The hairpin is made of a translucent horn apparently so fragile that the flowers of diamond clusters seem to be bending the leaves. The delicate contrast of the materials gives the jewel a magical quality. Lalique was celebrated for his elegant and extremely expensive jewellery. His designs were made for wealthy clients, like his patron, the Armenian oil magnate Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. He made a second hairpin in the same form for this client (now at the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon). That pin has the flowers executed in pale blue plique-á-jour enamel decorated with diamonds.

    Year c. 1902-03
    Artist René Lalique
    Technique Horn, gold and diamonds
    Dimensions 15,5 x 7,6 cm

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  • Ambrogio Spinola

    The Spanish army in the Southern Netherlands was under the command of the Italian Ambrogio Spinola. As a general this opponent of Stadholder Maurice was widely respected. Spinola travelled to The Hague for the negotiations that led to the Twelve-Year Truce. It was during this period that the artist Michiel van Miereveld of Delft painted his portrait, probably commissioned by Maurice for his gallery of paintings of famous heroes. Here Spinola, almost an exact contemporary of Maurice, is shown aged 39.

    Title Ambrogio Spinola (1569-1630), Commander of the Spanish Troops in the Southern Netherlands

    Year 1609

    Artist Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld

    Technique Oil on canvas

    Dimensions 119 x 87 cm

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  • Title
    Interior with a Mother delousing her child's hair, known as 'A Mother's duty'
    c. 1658-60
    Pieter de Hooch
    Oil on canvas
    52,5 x 61 cm
    In a room with a boxbed, a mother and child are sitting happily together. The woman is absorbed by a rather prosaic task: delousing her child's hair. The delicate play of the light leads the viewer's attention from room to room. The light in the room is somewhat subdued whereas as the room at the back is sunny. A garden can be seen through the open door. A ray of light shines through the high window, lighting up the two figures. It also catches the edge of the child's chair and the copper bedpan. The sunlight reflects strongly in the door, causing the floor tiles and hair on the dog's chest to glisten.

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  • An old woman is sitting quietly in her chair. On the table beside her is a book. She is wearing a kind of two-piece: a black dress and matching coat trimmed with fur, which is draped elegantly over the chair. In her hand is a handkerchief. This type of costume was fashionable around 1640 but the large ruff and the cap with wing flaps were out-of-date by this time. Nevertheless, the older generation tended to ignore the whims of fashion and continued to wear these garments.

    Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680)

    The artist Ferdinand Bol grew up in Dordrecht. He learned to paint either there or in Utrecht under the artist Abraham Bloemaert. Later Bol worked for a period at the studio of Rembrandts in Amsterdam, before setting up as an independent artist in 1642. Bol mainly produced portraits and history paintings. At first his work resembled Rembrandt's, but after 1650 he developed a more colourful and elegant style. Bol received numerous commissions, including for the Amsterdam town hall and the Admiralty. After 1669 and his second marriage to Anna van Arckel, Bol, now a wealthy man, hardly painted anymore. His self portrait of the late 1660s is one of his last works.

    Elisabeth Jacobsdr. Bas (1571-1649), widow of Jochem Hendricksz. Swartenhont

    c. 1640

    Ferdinand Bol

    Oil on canvas

    118 x 91,5 cm

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  • Francis Picabia
    Conversation I, 1922

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  • Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia
    21 February – 26 May 2008

    Duchamp set himself the challenge of making art works

    that were not works of art, as traditionally understood.

    He decided that an art work did not need to be either

    visually appealing or even made by the artist. Accordingly,

    he chose a number of ‘readymade’ objects, of no

    aesthetic merit, and gave them the usual attributes of a

    work of art: a title, a named author, a date of execution,

    and a viewing public or owner. His Fountain – an ordinary

    urinal laid on its back – was rejected from an exhibition

    in 1917. This, and more importantly, the ensuing debate

    about what constitutes a work of art, is now seen as

    a turning point in the history of modernism.

    Rather than readymades, Man Ray produced what he called

    ‘objects of my affection’: two or more elements combined

    to create a new work. He also used his camera to record

    transient or ephemeral items that caught his eye. Here it

    was the photograph that was the work of art, rather than

    the object itself.

    Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Francis Picabia were at the cutting edge of art in the first half of the twentieth century, and made a lasting impression on modern and contemporary art. Duchamp invented the concept of the ‘readymade’: presenting an everyday object as an artwork, Man Ray pioneered avant-garde photographic and film techniques and Picabia’s use of kitsch, popular or low-brow imagery in his paintings undermined artistic conventions.

    Their shared outlook on life and art, with a taste for jokes, irony and the erotic, forged a friendship that provided support and inspiration. At the heart of the Dada movement and moving in the same artistic circles, they discussed ideas and collaborated, echoing and responding to each other’s works. Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia explores their affinities and parallels, uncovering a shared approach to questioning the nature of art.

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  • Wilhelmina of Prussia

    Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia (1751-1820) was the wife of Stadholder William V. They were married in 1767 when Wilhelmina was sixteen and William nineteen. This portrait was painted twenty-two years later, in 1789 as a present to William V from their two oldest children, Louise and William Frederick. It is an unusual portrait in that the princess is not riding side-saddle (with both legs on one side of the horse), the usual pose for a woman. She is sitting astride the horse as a man would have done. The tower in the background is Jacob's church in The Hague.

    Title Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Prussia (1751-1820). Equestrian portrait of the wife of Prince Willia
    Year 1789
    Artist Tethart Philipp Christian Haag
    Technique Oil on canvas
    Dimensions 86 x 69 cm

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  • A young woman leans over weakly in her chair, her head resting on a cushion on the table. The doctor is taking her pulse. What is the young lady suffering from? Probably she is not ill, just hopelessly in love. She is 'lovesick', her heart is broken. Jan Steen, the artist who painted the scene, depicted her with blushing cheeks and a smile on her lips. Contemporaries of Jan Steen would immediately have seen that this was not a real emergency. The 'doctor' is wearing clothes which were by then old-fashioned. Doctors in garments such as these were confined to the stage, where playwrights made fun of incompetent quacks.

    Title The Sick Woman
    Year c. 1665
    ArtistJan Havicksz. Steen
    Technique Oil on canvas
    Dimensions 76 x 63,5 cm

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