Virtually explore the National Gallery with Smarthistory as your guide
videos + essays
Link to the National Gallery's website
The carpet and the globe: Holbein’s The Ambassadors reframed
Everything seems so perfect... Hang on, what’s that in the foreground? And why is that lute string broken?
Gentile Bellini, Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II
Gentile Bellini's portrait of Mehmed II has been re-interpreted and understood many times since it was produced nearly 550 years ago.
Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with Saint Emidius
What are Persian carpets, a peacock, and a cucumber doing in a painting of The Annunciation?
Anthony van Dyck, Equestrian Portrait of Charles I
A portrait of the cultivated, but deeply flawed, politically inept, and unlucky King Charles I, who ended his days beheaded on a scaffold.
The question of pregnancy in Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait
Van Eyck’s enigmatic and iconic double portrait often prompts the question: is the female figure pregnant?
John Constable, The Hay Wain
Landscape painting was considered lowly subject, but Constable gives them the six-foot treatment.
Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews
With its relaxed poses and outdoor setting, this portrait exemplifies the “conversation piece.” But is it finished?
Paul Cézanne, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)
The subject matter of this painting couldn’t be more traditional, but its formal characteristics make it modern.
William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode
Smooth talkers, vain aristocrats, disreputable doctors, unfaithful lovers—Hogarth’s moralizing takes no prisoners.
The Wilton Diptych
Hinged together, these two panels stage Richard II’s audience with the Virgin and Christ Child. Count the angels!
Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban (Self-Portrait?)
“As I can.” On the frame to this portrait, the painter humblebrags—and establishes his place in history.
Bronzino, An Allegory with Venus and Cupid
Riddle me this. Bronzino’s allegorical painting is one of the most disturbing and curious in all of art history.