Visual documentation


The RKD holds more than five million digital and analogue images of artworks, making it one of the largest collections in the world. It also houses collections relating to portrait iconography and topography, and there are also huge numbers of historical photographs in the archives.

Visual documentation

The collection of visual documentation boasts more than four million photographs, reproductions and slides of artworks. The emphasis of the collection is on Dutch and Flemish art from the Late Middle Ages to the present day, but other Western art is also well represented. Digitisation of the visual documentation is now complete and the material is accessible via RKD Research. Researchers can also gather valuable information about works of art from the data accompanying the images.


The portrait collection includes approximately 80,000 photographs and reproductions of paintings portraying historical figures, as well as photographic portraits of ordinary Dutch people from the period 1840-1920. A substantial portion of these are in the form of cartes de visite, small portrait photographs that people collected in albums. The RKD has a number of special examples of these albums in its collection. The extensive collection of portraiture is the legacy of the former Iconografisch Bureau, which was incorporated into the RKD. The portraits can be accessed via RKD Research, and are searchable by sitter.

Originals from the Portrait Iconography collection can be consulted by prior appointment. As this material is kept in storage you must give at least three working days’ notice before the time of your appointment. You can submit a request via email to:

Early photographs

The RKD stores more than 10,000 historical photos. Among the highlights is the collection of 2300 original glass negatives and photographic prints made by George Hendrik Breitner. Much early photographic material is also contained within the archives and some of this material is available via RKD Research.

Topographical material

The historical topography collection holds more than 100,000 photographs and reproductions of topographical images of Dutch and Belgian cities, villages, as well as pictures of churches, castles, windmills and interiors. There are also original topographical drawings and prints as well as picture postcards. You can search the database by place or building using RKD Research. The material is frequently consulted by researchers wanting to find what a particular location looked like in the past. It is also a valuable resource for identifying city and village views represented in works of art.