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One-Minute Masterpieces

Most of the works in the exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace are securely dated and attributed; mostly we know which monarch bought them. But what makes them important? What do they still have to offer? What do you think makes a masterpiece?

In these one-minute videos, Royal Collection staff discuss their favourite paintings on show and how they can be understood from a particular perspective.

A British 20th-century ebonised architrave frame; with gilt hazzled sight and fluted frieze.
Rembrandt van Rijn
Agatha Bas

The use of paint

It is not perhaps surprising that Rembrandt, the greatest artist of seventeenth-century Holland, should have been so self-indulgent in depicting his own likeness. Rembrandt literally paints his autobiography by means of some forty pictures, as well as thi
Rembrandt van Rijn
Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap

The status of the artist

This is a precious record of a moment when De Hooch and Vermeer were both working in Delft evolving a distinctive style; the evidence of dated works (like this one) suggesting that De Hooch was making the running. De Hooch's reputation was certainly enhan
Pieter de Hooch
Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room

Planning the canvas

This is a precious record of a moment when De Hooch and Vermeer were both working in Delft evolving a distinctive style; the evidence of dated works (like this one) suggesting that De Hooch was making the running. De Hooch's reputation was certainly enhan
Pieter de Hooch
Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room

Light and geometry

The figure is identified by the cameo on her breastplate as Pallas Athene, the warrior, goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens. Parmigianino has stylised and distorted the figure of the goddess to create a mannerist ideal of beauty.
The subject in this pa
Parmigianino
Pallas Athene

Textures and symbols

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9-82) is thought to have trained in Haarlem with his father, Isaack van Ruisdael, and his uncle Salomon van Ruysdael. Ruisdael had moved to Amsterdam by 1657 and stated before an Amsterdam notary in 1661 that he was 32, thereby in
Jacob van Ruisdael
Evening Landscape

Attention to detail

The painting is an outstanding example of Jan Steen’s art in all respects. The elaborate treatment of subject-matter reveals a profusion of references that would have been readily recognisable to his contemporaries, attesting to the painter’s
Jan Steen
A Woman at her Toilet

Sensual pleasures

This magnificent landscape almost certainly came from Rubens’s own collection. It was described in an inventory drawn up between 1634 and 1649 as a ‘view of Laken’ (a village near Brussels often spelt ‘Laeken’), which is how
Sir Peter Paul Rubens
The Farm at Laken

Peace, land and fertility