Before I get serious let me tell you about my favorite thing in all of Art History: Annunciation scenes.
Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary in these scenes to tell her that she is to carry God’s child. She’s supposed to be honored, humble, maybe somewhat intimidated by the idea, but she ultimately is supposed to be very accepting of this, as it is her destiny. Artists were supposed to make all of this clear, as most folks back then couldn’t read and their education came from visual depictions..
In theory, that is.
The reality is that a large number of Annunciation scenes have gained notoriety because Mary looks, frankly, pissed. At best, ambivalent. The Annunciation above in ivory that I’ve posted is pretty great: Mary looks to be to be a bit out of it, ultimately either not listening to Gabriel or just like, “Get this over with dude, I don’t really feel like incubating God’s child atm, thanks.”
I personally find this sort of thing hilarious. Simone Martini painted the best one in 1333, which I posted below:
Mary is downright displeased in this one, and I don’t blame her. If I were just living my life, doing my thing, and some angel showed up telling me I had no choice, that I was going to be impregnated by God to carry a child that would ultimately be sacrificed because people are sinning awful things, I’d give a FULL pass. Nope/nein/nyet/non.
Anyway, the Rijksmuseum provided other awesome things beyond just slightly hilarious Annunciation scenes. I got to revel in Dutch still lifes, which I studied for awhile, and thoroughly love. Skulls proliferate in the museum, as the Dutch and Flemish had a love for reminders of death that was simply wonderful. There was an incredibly creepy painting of some gutted and skinned political brothers that I really enjoyed but I will pass on posting here. The Dutch are all about reminders not to do things- don’t be overtly sexual, don’t be too ostentatious with your money, don’t be a corrupt member of government, don’t forget you’re going to die, don’t drink too much, etc., and frankly I would have gotten tired of all these reminders but I was lucky enough to not live back then regardless.
The Rijksmuseum overall has a fantastic collection. It wasn’t overwhelming, it was really interestingly organized, and I loved meandering through it all and taking in more pieces of history.