Roughly spanning the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age was a period in Dutch history in which trade, science and art were the most acclaimed in the world. Golden Age painting followed many of the tendencies that dominated Baroque art in other parts of Europe, but was the leader in developing the subjects of still life, landscape and genre painting. This trend, coupled with the lack of Counter-Reformation church patronage that dominated the arts in Catholic Europe, resulted in a great number of 'scenes of everyday life' and other non-secular pictures.
There may be no other country in which, in the brief span of a hundred years, so many paintings were executed as during the 17th century in Holland: no less than 5 million paintings were created. After the connection of art with courts, monasteries and religious associations had waned, the urban upper class had discovered that paintings were a symbol of power, objects to be collected avidly.
Gerard Houckgeest, Ambulatory of the Niewe Kerk in Delft, with the Tomb of William the Silent, 1651
William van de Velde II, Ships in the Roads, 1658
Pieter van Anraadt, Still Life with Earthenware Jug and Clay Pipes, 1658
Salomon van Ruysdael, View of Sailing Boats on a Lake, 1650-51
Judith Leyster, Man Offering Money to a Young Woman, 1631
This is an early work by Leyster who was 22 years old when she painted it. It's a genre painting but it's completely different to other contemporary Dutch 'sexual proposition' paintings. The convention for the genre was for the characters to be bawdy, both clearly interested in sex for money. The woman's dress would be provocative, the facial expressions suggestive and sometimes there would be a third figure of an older woman acting as a procuress. In contrast, in this painting the woman is an ordinary housewife, engaged in a simple everyday chore. She is not dressed provocatively and she displays no interest in sex or the man. Kirstin Olsen observed that male art critics 'so completely missed the point' that the woman is, in contrast to other works, not welcoming the man's proposition that they mistakenly named the painting The Tempting Offer.
The foot warmer, whose glowing coals are visible beneath the hem of her skirt was a pictorial code of the time, and represented the woman's marital status. A foot warmer wholly under the skirt indicated a married woman who was unavailable; a foot warmer projecting halfway out from under the skirt with the woman's foot visible on it indicated one who might be receptive to a male suitor, and a foot warmer that is not under the woman at all, and empty of coals, indicated a single woman. This code can also be seen in Vermeer's The Milkmaid. (source Wikipedia)
Gerard Houckgeest, The Tomb of William the Silent in the Niewe Kerk in Delft, 1654
Gerrit Dou, The Young Mother, 1658
Jan van der Heyden, View of Oudezijds Voorburgwal with the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, 1670
Nicolaes Maes, The Old Lacemaker, 1655
George van der Mijn, Portrait of Elisabeth Troost, 1758
Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, Still Life with Copper Pot, Cheese and Eggs, 1730-35
Jan Steen, Girl Eating Oysters, 1658-60
Pieter Saenredam, The Mariaplaats with the Mariakerk in Utrecht, 1659
Pieter Saenredam, The Interior of the Cunerakerk in Rhenen, 1655
Walter Liedtke has pointed out how the painting 'shows the artist already addressing his usual theme, women in private moments and the complications of desire' as well as 'the ability to sympathetically describe the private lives of women'. He notes that it's 'remarkable for its tenderness and sincerity'.
Gerard ter Borch, Woman Writing a Letter, 1655
Gerard ter Borch, Hunting for Lice
Paulus Potter, The Bull, 1647
This is one of the most famous paintings in the Maurithuis. Painting a bull on such a grand scale had never been done before. Despite the painting's large size, great attention has been paid to the smallest details, such as the lark in the sky, the sunshine on the meadow, the flies on the bull's back and the cow's whiskers. This made the painting the epitome of Dutch naturalistic painting.
Adriaen Coorte, Still Life with Five Apricots, 1704