17th Century

Paintings of daily life in Holland, Italy and Britain in the 1600s. From everyday pursuits at work and in the home, to religious paintings and depictions of mortality.

View of the 17th century gallery

Life and Death in the 17th Century

The paintings in this display provide an insight into human experience in Europe during the 1600s. Today most people feel they should enjoy life to the full and would rather not think about death. In the 17th century it was the other way round. Protestants and Catholics alike saw earthly life as a brief, often miserable prelude to everlasting life in Heaven. 

The early 1600s saw plagues, wars and religious conflicts throughout Europe; people had little to cling to but their faith. But from the 1650s there was growing prosperity, bringing increased material comfort and social stability.

This change is reflected in art and in the depiction of people's possessions, collections of objects that show the influence of travel and trade, hinting at the status, wealth and interests of the people who owned them.  New optical technologies led to fresh ways of seeing and scientific progress displaced old superstitions.

Key works usually on display in this gallery include:

If you are coming to see a particular work please contact the gallery in advance to ensure it is on display.