This paper reports on a study to explore how semantic relations can be used to expand a query for objects in an image. The study is part of a project with the overall objective to provide semantic annotation and search facilities for a virtual collection of art resources. In this study we used semantic relations from WordNet for 15 image content queries. The results show that, next to the hyponym/hypernym relation, the meronym/holonym (part-of) relation is particularly useful in query expansion. We identified a number of relation patterns that improve recall without jeopardising precision. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.