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Browse the highlights of the National Gallery

Published: Monday 15th of October 2012

Art lovers visiting London will no doubt ensure that the National Gallery is on their sightseeing itinerary, and the gallery has selected some highlights of its extensive collection that guests are invited to peruse on a trip there.

A Young Woman standing at a Virginial by Johannes Vermeer (1670-2)

This haunting painting depicts a finely dressed young woman standing playing the virginial in a wealthy by shadowy home. This piece is interesting as the room she is in is decorated with artistic masterpieces, with art critics agreeing they are likely to be by artists Caesar van Everdingen, Jan Wijnants or possibly Allart van Everdingen.

Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian (1520-23)

A visual sensation, Bacchus and Ariadne portrays Bacchus, god of wine, at the moment he fell in love with Ariadne. The image shows the god leaping from his cheetah-drawn chariot. While Ariadne was originally fearful of Bacchus, he raised her to the stars and turned her into a beautiful constellation.

Doge Leonardo Loredan by Giovanni Bellini (1501-2)

This striking painting is a portrait of Leonardo Loredan, who was the Doge of Venice from 1501-21. In this picture he wears his robes of state, which features a hat and ornate buttons. The work is painted in the style of the sculptor portrait busts which were all the rage at the time. Bellini was one of the artists who helped to turn portraiture into an art form.

Equestrian Portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck (1637-8)

An elegant portrait of a king, the Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, provides a snapshot into history. Court painter Van Dyck often painted pictures of the sovereign which made clear Charles I's belief in his divine right to govern. Not long afterwards, there was a Civil War leading to the king's execution in 1649, so it is no wonder he was so intent on promoting the divine right of kings at this time.

Samson and Delilah by Peter Paul Rubens (1609-10)

Samson and Delilah is a world-famous masterpiece, depicting an age-old story. The beautifully dark picture shows Samson, the Jewish hero, sleeping with his head in Delilah's lap while a man cuts his hair - the source of all his power. The story goes that Samson fell in love with Delilah who, bribed by the Philistines, found that his strength came from his hair which had never been cut. It was chopped off while he was sleeping, he woke drained of his strength and the Philistines were able to capture him.

Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Arguably one of the most famous images in the world, Sunflowers is one of four paintings from August and September 1888 depicting a vase of dying sunflowers. Van Gough had originally intended to decorate fellow artist Gaugin's room with the paintings in his Yellow House in the South of France. While painting the pieces, Van Gough wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888: "I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when you know that what I'm at is the painting of some sunflowers."

The Hay Wain by John Constable (1821)

Constable's famous Hay Wain is another painting owned by the museum. It shows the hay wain, which was a form of horse-drawn cart, standing in the water of the foreground. The viewer can also see a group of haymakers working away in the distance, and an idyllic cottage. Today the cottage and river path stand quite the same as they did back in Constable's era.

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