Jan Brueghel De Oude Peter Paul Rubens Het Aardse Paradijs Met De Zondeval Van Adam En Eva MH253 Mauritshuis

A museum full of animals

You might be surprised to learn that you can find lots of animals at the Mauritshuis. Will you join us in the search?

Narrated by

Blijdorp

Blijdorp Zoo

Educational staff

Auke Florian

Auke-Florian Hiemstra

Biologist, columnist, scientist

Charlotte Rulkens

Charlotte Rulkens

Junior Curator Mauritshuis

Perhaps you expect pictures of men and women wearing large, white ruffs at the Mauritshuis. Or ships with full sails on stormy seas. And you’d be right: we do have paintings like that on display. But lots of our paintings also have animals in them. After all, animals and people belong together. And that was also true in the past.

Sometimes the animals at the Mauritshuis are really large; sometimes they’re really small. From an enormous bull to tiny creepy crawlies – we’ve got them all. One of the most important of all these animals is Maurits Mouse. He lives here at the Mauritshuis and watches over the museum at night.

Discover the animals

Huh? What's a biologist doing at the museum? Go on a search for animals together with Auke-Florian.

A world full of animals

You’re looking at an ancient story here: the story of Adam and Eve, the first people on earth. They lived in a beautiful garden that was called the Garden of Eden. It was always good weather there, which meant that Adam and Eve spent the whole day outside and didn’t even need to wear clothes. It was a bit like a never-ending summer holiday.

Adam and Eve didn’t live alone in the Garden of Eden: there were also plenty of animals. These included horses and monkeys, lions and tigers, elephants, dogs, cats and lots of different kinds of birds. There was never any trouble – everyone lived together happily. In this painting you can see just how wonderful it was.

Detail van Adam en Eva op het schilderij Het aards paradijs met de zondeval van Adam en Eva van Rubens en Brueghel uit het Mauritshuis in Den Haag

Activity: Find the animals

Adam and Eve lived together with all the animals in the Garden of Eden. They are standing together on the left – you’ll no doubt already have spotted them. But can also you find these animals?
Two guinea pigs, two swans, a squirrel, two pigs, a snake, a monkey, an elephant, a cat, a rooster and a crocodile.
And can you name the other animals?

Jan Brueghel De Oude Peter Paul Rubens Het Aardse Paradijs Met De Zondeval Van Adam En Eva MH253 Mauritshuis
Antwoorden Aardse Paradijs

Dive into paradise

Would you like to know more about this painting? Want to hear the entire story of Adam and Eve and all the animals in the Garden of Eden? You can find out more together here.

Detail van de slang op het schilderij Het aards paradijs met de zondeval van Adam en Eva van Rubens en Brueghel uit het Mauritshuis in Den Haag

Maurits Mouse

Maurits Mouse lives in a hole in the Golden Room. When the museum is closed, he wanders around the empty building, keeping watch. But the museum isn’t really empty, because Maurits’s friends live in the paintings hanging on the walls. He visits them at night and they go on exciting adventures together. And every year at Christmas we release a special Maurits Mouse video. 

Maurits Muis Mauritshuis

A clever and cheerful bird

You’ll also come across this little bird at the Mauritshuis. It’s a goldfinch. You can see goldfinches out in the countryside – perhaps you’ve seen one? In the 17th century people also kept goldfinches as pets, because they were pretty to look at and their singing was cheerful and happy. But goldfinches are clever too. You can teach them all kinds of tricks, like lifting up the lid of their feeder or pulling water up from a bowl using a small bucket. But we don’t know if goldfinches themselves enjoy doing this. What do you think?

This particular goldfinch has become very famous. Not for his beautiful singing or because he could do clever tricks. But because Carel Fabritius painted him.

All audio clips

  • Blijdorp Zoo

    Educational staff

    Blijdorp
  • Auke-Florian Hiemstra

    Biologist, columnist, scientist

    Auke Florian
  • Charlotte Rulkens

    Junior Curator Mauritshuis

    Charlotte Rulkens
Carel Fabritius Het Puttertje MH605 Mauritshuis

The Goldfinch in every detail

Would you like to take a really close look at this painting? Or find out more about The Goldfinch and Carel Fabritius? Find out more together here.

Puttertje Detail

A different bird

But we also have other birds. Like this bird of prey. It’s been trained to help during hunting and sits on its master’s arm. With this portrait, his master wanted to show everyone: ‘Hey look, I’m chief falconer to the King of England’. Because this was no ordinary job, it was a position of honour.

Curious about what Auke-Florian Hiemstra has to say about this bird? You can listen here.

All audio clips

  • Auke-Florian Hiemstra

    Biologist, columnist, scientist

    Auke Florian
Hans Holbein De Jonge Portret Van Robert Cheseman MH276 Mauritshuis

Two rivals

Among all the animals at the Mauritshuis, you will also find these two tortoises. They come from Brazil, a country in South America. Tortoises don’t live in the wild in the Netherlands. But people do keep them at home, as pets. Or you might see them at the zoo or a children’s farm. And sometimes you even find escaped tortoises in ponds at the park.

In the Netherlands in the 17th century, tortoises were still exotic animals that came from far away. Albert Eckhout saw these two examples when he was living in Brazil for a couple of years. That was where he made this painting. These two rivals aren’t particularly friendly – you can see them baring their teeth at each other. But did the painter get this right? Have a quick listen to this story from the people at Rotterdam Zoo

All audio clips

  • Blijdorp Zoo

    Educational staff

    Blijdorp
Eckhout Schildpadden Mh0957 Mauritshuis Zoom

A huge bull

A young bull stands in a meadow. Lying next to him are a cow and some sheep. There is a croaking frog and some dung flies are buzzing around. And singing high up in the sky is a lark. Paulus Potter painted the animals very truthfully, from the slimmest whisker to the tiniest drop of slobber. And he chose a really large canvas to paint the animals on. The bull that you can see is really huge.

But don’t be fooled! However real this bull may look, Potter didn’t paint a real animal – he made it up! Although he did it very well and very beautifully. To find out how he did it, listen to what Charlotte has to say.

All audio clips

  • Charlotte Rulkens

    Junior Curator Mauritshuis

    Charlotte Rulkens
Paulus Potter De Stier MH136 Mauritshuis
Activity: Finish the story

Activity: Finish the story

Children’s author Sjoerd Kuyper wrote a story to go with The Bull. It’s the story of the frog sitting on the ground in front of the bull. It starts like this:

I have travelled the world in a hat. The journey began in the spring of the year of Our Lord 1647, and ended a day later. So, also in the spring of the year of Our Lord 1647, just a day later. It’s been seven years already. Friends, where does the time go? This is my story. I was sitting in the reeds along the canal, singing my song for the lady frogs. A barge pulled up, a man came ashore and out shot his hand. He grabbed me, placed me on his head, put his hat on and everything went dark. He was a kind man. He had nice hair to sleep on. Every now and then, he would take off the hat and feed me some mosquitos. He grabbed them out of the air. He had quick hands. I would take a look around and I saw a lot, but nothing in particular. I saw the meadows that I knew, cows grazing, a blue sky with dark clouds on the horizon, birds full of song. I was happy when the hat went back on. Then I could go back to sleep or listen to what the people were talking about.

But how does the story continue?
What do you think happens next? Tell each other your version of the story!
And if you want to know how story ends in Sjoerd Kuyper’s version, you can buy a copy of the Mauritshuis story book.

Detail van de kikker op het schilderij De stier van Paulus Potter uit het Mauritshuis in Den Haag

Into nature!

Do you want to see the enormous bull in close-up? Would you like to know more? See and read more together here.

Stier Detail

Creepy crawlies

By now you’ll have worked out that there are lots of animals wandering around in the paintings at the Mauritshuis. There’s barking, mooing and flapping. But you’ll also find buzzing, humming and crawling in our paintings. Some of these you can see easily, others are more hidden. Take a closer look and see if you can spot them.

All audio clips

  • Auke-Florian Hiemstra

    Biologist, columnist, scientist

    Auke Florian
  • Blijdorp Zoo

    Educational staff

    Blijdorp
Jan Davidsz De Heem Vaas Met Bloemen MH1099 Mauritshuis
Antwoorden Heem Vaas Met Bloemen

A cheerful bunch

Now it’s your turn with our painting by Roelant Savery. We’ve made a colouring-in page of his bouquet of flowers, which has all kinds of animals crawling around in it. Use your best felt-tips, grab your prettiest pencils and colour in the flowers. Or cover them with colourful balls of crêpe paper. As long as you end up with a cheerful bunch of flowers. And some creepy crawlies!

Roelant Savery Vaas Met Bloemen In Een Stenen Nis MH1213 Mauritshuis