Culture

Which Artwork Is A Metaphor For The Current Global Condition?

President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands in front of Rembrandt's Night Watch after speaking to the press following meetings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Monday. Which artwork in the museum best captures the current global mood? i i

hide captionPresident Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands in front of Rembrandt's Night Watch after speaking to the press following meetings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Monday. Which artwork in the museum best captures the current global mood?

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands in front of Rembrandt's Night Watch after speaking to the press following meetings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Monday. Which artwork in the museum best captures the current global mood?

President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands in front of Rembrandt's Night Watch after speaking to the press following meetings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Monday. Which artwork in the museum best captures the current global mood?

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
The Threatened Swan, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

hide captionThe Threatened Swan, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630, Rembrandt

hide captionJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630, Rembrandt

Universal History Archive/Getty Images
For the Love of God, by British artist Damien Hirst, shows a diamond-encrusted human skull and was unveiled in 2007.

hide captionFor the Love of God, by British artist Damien Hirst, shows a diamond-encrusted human skull and was unveiled in 2007.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is doing serious work in Europe this week, meeting with the G-7, NATO and the EU to discuss Russia's actions in Ukraine. He's also joining leaders from more than 50 countries in The Hague to talk about keeping nuclear weapons away from terrorists. But before the intense negotiations got underway, he launched this trip with a bit of culture.

Moments after Air Force One touched down in Amsterdam, the president toured the Rijksmuseum, Holland's temple of fine art. As Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte led Obama through the museum's grand hall with high vaulted ceilings, I asked on Twitter and Facebook:

"What legendary piece of art in the museum (and there are many) is the best metaphor for today's global situation?"

Here are a few of the responses: On Facebook, Harold Levine weighs in with Rembrandt's iconic Night Watch, the crown jewel of the Rijksmuseum's collection.

Visitors look at The Little Street by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. i i

hide captionVisitors look at The Little Street by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Visitors look at The Little Street by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

Visitors look at The Little Street by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

"All those overdressed, puffed-up men in their military costumes who can't really make anything happen. Crimea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan..."

The painting is at the top of the page, with Obama meeting the Dutch prime minister standing in front of it.

On Twitter, Robert Vente @bvente suggests The Threatened Swan, by Jan Asselijn.

"Swan aggressively defending its nest against threats/enemies-seems relevant to several situations in the world."

Laura Hoogstraten @LauraH00g offers Rembrandt's Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem.

"Jeremiah has predicted the destruction of Jerusalem; so can we predict the consequences of nuclear weapons."

A Twitter user who goes by @Vollyrocks chooses a piece that is not a painting: For the Love of God, by Damien Hirst, which was displayed at the Rijksmuseum a few years ago. Vollyrocks describes it as:

"A skull with diamonds, representing the death of capitalism."

Then there's this suggestion from Ak Palmer on Facebook. She recommends The Little Street, by Vermeer.

" 'The Little Street' lonely, quiet houses due to the people inside isolating themselves with electronics. We are the most 'social' antisocial society."

Finally, more than one person suggested Edvard Munch's The Scream. This painting is actually in Oslo, not Amsterdam, but since it seems to be such a popular choice we'll include it here anyway. No explanation necessary.

The Scream, 1895, Edvard Munch.

hide captionThe Scream, 1895, Edvard Munch.

Sotheby's Auction House/AP

You can view the Rijksmuseum's entire collection here and offer your suggestions in the comments thread below. Which piece of art do you think best reflects world events today?

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