Mobile menu
Our sites in England are closed, reopening 3 December. Our sites in Scotland are open. More info.

Activities full of historical facts, insights and fun learning opportunities

Decoding Art

Group of school pupils and teacher looking closely at a painting on a gallery wall

Pupils studying a painting in The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace ©

When you look closely at a painting you will see there is often much more going on than you might notice at first glance. 

These interactives explore how artists use hidden clues and symbolism to send us important messages and how they can even tell a story without writing any words.

Image of the painting 'The Misers' - two grumpy looking men count money together
Resource

Seeing the Story

This painting shows two grumpy looking men counting a pile of gold and silver coins. The artist is trying to make us laugh but he also has a serious message to share. Use this interactive to find out what the hidden clues and symbols mean. Even the parrot is telling us something!

Discover
Painting of A Village Revel by Jan Steen showing a grouping of people having a party outside a building
Resource

The Naughty Bits

This resource looks at all sorts of bad behaviour from different 17th-century paintings in the Royal Collection. Did these artists paint to make people laugh or to teach them how to behave? Investigate the hidden messages and decide!

Discover