Click on the images below for gallery labels available in the exhibition.

Frans Hals (1582/83–1666)
Portrait of Jacob Olycan (1596–1638), 1625
Oil on canvas
49 1/8 x 38 3/8 in. (124.8 x 97.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Transferred to the Mauritshuis in 1881
Inv. no 459

Frans Hals, one of the period’s chief portraitists, painted the twenty-nine-year-old brewer and burgomaster (mayor) shown here and his nineteen-year-old wife, Aletta, to commemorate their marriage of the previous year. They are depicted in mirroring poses — inclined toward each other, with one arm bent and the other hanging down — a portraiture convention in use since the sixteenth century.

Frans Hals (1582/83–1666)
Portrait of Aletta Hanemans (1606–1653), 1625
Oil on canvas
48 3/4 x 38 3/4 in. (123.8 x 98.3 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Transferred to the Mauritshuis in 1881
Inv. no. 460

Aletta’s wedding ring and bridal gloves underscore the connubial theme of this portrait, a pendant to that of her husband Jacob. Her silk garments, trimmed with expensive lace and gold brocade, were, like those of her husband, inspired by Spanish fashions. Such meticulous detail is typical of Hals’s early work.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669)
Simeon’s Song of Praise, 1631
Oil on panel (rounded at the upper corners)
24 x 18 7/8 in. (60.9 x 47.9 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired by Prince William IV, 1733
Inv. no. 145

In the seventeenth century, history painting — the depiction of allegories, classical history, mythology, and the Bible — was highly esteemed, especially by academics. Simeon’s Song of Praise demonstrates Rembrandt’s brilliance in this genre. As chronicled in the Gospel of Luke, the elderly Simeon was promised that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Rembrandt depicts a divinely illuminated Simeon acknowledging the child in his arms. Mary and Joseph sink in astonishment while the prophetess Anna appears before the group to offer a blessing.

Rembrandt van Rijn  (1606-1669)
Portrait of an Elderly Man, 1667
Oil on canvas
32 ¼ x 25 5/8 in. (81.9 x 67.7 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1999 with the support of the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Fund for National Cultural Heritage, the Sponsor Lottery, the Fonds 1818, the Rembrandt Society, the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund, ING Group, Prof. Drs. A.C.R. Dreesmann, the Dr. Hendrik Muller National Fund and private individuals
Inv. no. 1118

This painting from Rembrandt’s maturity is thought to be of Lodewijck van Ludick, a merchant, art collector, and close friend of the artist. An intriguing comparison can be made between this picture and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait (1658) in the Frick's permanent collection. Rembrandt executes both paintings in what is known as his “rough” style, characterized by loose brushstrokes and heavily impastoed surfaces. Each man’s confronting gaze conveys a sense of wisdom, as well as disillusionment.

Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)
The Goldfinch, 1654
Oil on panel
13 ¼ x 9 in. (33.5 x 22.8 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1896
Inv. no. 605

Fabritius uses a minimum of quick strokes to portray the house pet’s downy body. Such expert manipulation of paint to suggest form and texture may have been assimilated from Rembrandt, with whom he studied. Whatever the panel’s initial purpose — possibly a component of a birdcage or a cover for an encased painting — the little bird chained to his feed box is a masterpiece of trompe l’oeil illusionism. Vermeer — like Fabritius, a resident of Delft — was highly influenced by the artist’s pristine lighting and composed tranquility.

Jan Steen (1626–1679)
Girl Eating Oysters, c. 1658–60
Oil on panel
8 1/8 x 5 ¾ in. (20.5 x 14.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gift of Sir Henri Deterding, 1936
Inv. no 818

Like oysters, salt was considered an aphrodisiac. The glass of wine and the presence of the bed may indicate the girl’s intentions, as do her direct gaze and sly smile: she is offering herself. Steen fluently adapts his brushwork to suit the scale of his paintings, varying between the painstaking strokes of a miniaturist for this diminutive panel and a more painterly technique for the grand canvas “As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young," also on view in the exhibition.

Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681)
Woman Writing a Letter, c. 1655
Oil on panel
15 3/8 x 11 5/8 in. (39.0 x 29.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gift of Sir Henri Deterding, 1928
Inv. no 797

Ter Borch’s fashionably attired subject resembles his sister and frequent model Gesina. The demure lady has pushed aside the carpet covering the table in order to have a smooth surface on which to write. Since beds were found in all rooms in Dutch residences at this time, the bed here is unlikely to allude to licentious behavior. The large pearl the woman wears may corroborate this as pearls were often interpreted as symbols of virginity.

Jan Steen (1626-1679)
"As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young," 1668-70
Oil on canvas
52 ¾ x 64 1/8 in. (134 x 163 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1913
Inv. no 742

Steen uses what is ostensibly a celebration of the baptism of the baby at center as an occasion to demonstrate the effects of errant adult behavior on impressionable youngsters. An elderly woman holds a sheet of paper containing the words to a popular proverb, referenced in the painting’s title. Steen playfully portrays himself as the figure teaching the boy to smoke.

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665
Oil on canvas
17 ½ x 15 3/8 in. (44.5 x 39.0 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Bequest of Arnoldus des Tombe, 1903
Inv. no 670

The girl’s features may have been inspired by a live model, but her identity is unknown. Many subjects have been suggested, including the artist’s eldest daughter, but none of these proposals has been widely embraced. The painting belongs to a distinctly Dutch subcategory of portraiture known as the tronie. Tronies depict idealized faces or exaggerated expressions and often feature exotic trappings, like the turban and enormous earring worn by the girl. More »

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628?–1682)
View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds, c. 1670–75
Oil on canvas
21 7/8 x 24 3/8 in. (55.5 x 62.0 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1827
Inv. no 155

Landscape paintings, first produced as independent subjects in Flanders during the sixteenth century, matured and flourished during the Golden Age. Here, Ruisdael creates a paean to both the sun-drenched countryside and the city’s valued linen industry. Although he alters some topographical features to suit his vision, the flat topography of the lowlands is recognizable, as are many of the buildings, including the imposing Cathedral of Saint Bavo. The painting belongs to a category known as Haerlempjes (little views of Haarlem).

Rembrandt van Rijn  (1606-1669)
Susanna, 1636
Oil on panel
18 5/8 x 15 ¼ in. (47.4 x 38.6 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired by Prince William V, 1768
Inv. no. 147

As related in the Book of Daniel, the virtuous Susanna is spied on, while bathing, by a pair of Babylonian elders. In this superlative portrayal of human emotion, the anguished heroine looks toward us with tear-filled eyes and reddened nose as she shields her naked body. Rembrandt’s masterful handling of paint alternates between extravagantly encrusted layers to model Susanna’s figure and thinly painted portions to describe the background.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
“Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret, c. 1635-40
Oil on panel
24 5/8 x 18 ½ in. (62.5 x 47 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired by Prince William V, 1768
Inv. no. 149

Although sometimes mistaken for a self-portrait, this picture was not intended to represent a specific person. Head studies known as tronies allowed artists to freely experiment with facial expressions, costumes, and lighting effects. Like his contemporaries, Rembrandt often employed his own features when creating these studies, which were sold on the open market. This eclectic costume is not indicative of seventeenth-century Dutch fashion but instead represents the whimsical product of Rembrandt’s imagination.

Nicolaes Maes (1634–1693)
The Old Lacemaker, c. 1655
Oil on panel
14 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. (37.5 x 35 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1994 with the support of the Friends of The Mauritshuis Foundation, the VSB Foundation The Hague and the Rembrandt Society
Inv. no. 1101

Pictures inspired by daily life, or genre scenes, were extremely popular in the seventeenth century. Writers and moralists praised domestic activities, believing that such labors kept women from idleness. The home was the married woman’s domain, and a well-ordered household reflected a wife’s virtue. Thus the lacemaker’s kitchen — with its neatly gathered twigs, gleaming earthenware, and stacked kindling placed carefully on the table — suggests she is an exemplar of virtuous female conduct.

Pieter Claesz (1596/97–1660)
Vanitas Still Life, 1630
Oil on panel
15 ½ x 22 in. (39.5 x 56 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Acquired in 1960 with the support of the Openbaar Kunstbezit Foundation and the Rembrandt Society
Inv. no. 943

The vanitas  image is a reminder of life’s brevity and the worthlessness of material objects. Nevertheless, one cannot resist savoring Claesz’s rendering of the glittering timepiece with its glossy ribbon, the reflections on the snuffed oil lamp and overturned glass, the brittle pages, and the jagged fractures and crevices of the skull.

Adriaen Coorte (active c. 1683–1707)
Still Life with Five Apricots, 1704
Oil on canvas
11 7/8 x 9 ¼ in. (30 x 23.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Anonymous gift, 2006
Inv. no. 1154

Unlike many of his contemporaries who painted still lifes filled with precious wares and expensive delicacies, Coorte preferred common objects and simple compositions. In a possible nod to the vanitas genre, many of his pictures feature perishable items such as are seen here. A speckling of insect holes apparent on two of the crisp leaves also suggests this theme.