Curators news English

Interesting news from our museum curators:

New objects purchased or acquired through a donation or a legacy; new insights into historical events, research on the collection, restorations and so on.

Curators Julie Hengeveld and Hayo Riemersma write a column about their work.
Have you already signed up for Edam museum’s newsletter (Currently only available in Dutch)? Click here to view or register via info@edamsmuseum.nl.

Photo of Hayo: Peter Toxopeus

 

 


Edam Museum keeps a close eye on the news from Warder

Photo RTVNH

A wreck of a ship from the 16th century, sunk off the coast near Warder, which could possibly be a punt, causes excitement in the museum. Could it have been made in Edam? There were 33 shipyards in Edam in the Golden Age, along Voorhaven and Oorgat, helping Edam flourished and become wealthy. The cheese trade was less profitable but has ensured the city’s name continues to be famous.

Photo Punterbouw.nl

Experts such as the Waterland Archaeological Working Group and the Maritime Archaeology group from the Government Service for Cultural Heritage (RCE) are devoting their time to these discoveries.

Cick here for an 3D animation

A slipware pottery dish in a very reasonable condition has recently attracted attention. Such dishes often come from the river Werra, in the German state of Hesse, along which the goods were transported.

foto NHD

Click here for de article in NoordHollands Dagblad (in Dutch), or click here for a translation (without images).


Edam Museum acquires a third work by Ouwater!

Afbeelding

Thanks in part to a donation from the Old Edam Association, the museum has acquired a third work by Ouwater.

Click here for the press release Nieuwsflits. (Click for the original document plus English translation.)


Edam Museum brings works by Ouwater back to the Netherlands

Edam Museum has acquired two unique oil paintings by Isaac Ouwater (1748 – 1793). Both cityscapes meticulously and accurately show Edam at the end of the 18th century: lieux de mémoires shows the beautiful city gates to the east and west of the city.

The paintings are thought to have been part of a private collection in a castle in Warwickshire, England, for about 100 years and we were exhibited only once, in 1948. When Edam Museum’s curator Hayo Riemersma saw the unique opportunity to bring these works back to the Netherlands (bygone cityscapes of Edam by a Dutch painter!) He did not hesitate and the board made every effort to succeed.

The purchase would not have succeeded without the overwhelming interest and financial support from:

  • Vereniging Rembrandt *,
  • VSB-fonds,
  • Count van Bylandt Foundation and
  • Rabobank Coöperatiefonds.

There was also considerable local support:

  • De kring Vrienden van het Edams Museum
  • Gemeente Edam-Volendam
  • Vereniging Oud Edam
  • Nuts departement Edam
  • Boon Edam
  • Ondernemersvereniging Edam
  • Tandheelkundig Centrum Volendam en 8 particulieren.

A substantial contribution to the purchase was provided by the Museum from its own resources.

The paintings were auctioned at Christie’s auction house in London on 8th December 2017. The Museum was represented by Auke van der Werf.

Click here for full press release in Stadskrant Edam Click here for a translation

 


Hayo Riemersma on Ties van Dijk: A feather for a masterpiece’

A favourite painting from Edam Museum’s collection of the Museum is ‘The great church in autumn mist’ by Ties van Dijk. It was made around 1920, and is only 33 x 45 cm in size. It shows a landscape of farms and trees, in front of a silhouette of the Great Church of Edam, with trees to the left and right. There are no sharp-edges or even strong colours. The ambience is all-important, the atmosphere: the mist that hangs over the land. (Using feathers with oils paints is the right way to create this effect)

Ties van Dijk (geboren in Warffum 1873 – overleden in Eemnes 1967)
‘Grote Kerk in herfstnevel’ olieverf op doek 33 x 45 cm. rond 1920

That is also what stands out: the entire – quite small – painting is permeated with a certain defined tone, a mood that encompasses everything. The components (houses, the Great Church, the landscape) do not stand on their own but are absorbed into the big picture.

That is very modern: the whole of the painting forms the starting point; the components are geared to this. And to think that the painting was made about 100 years ago! It is a gem in the collection: because it is painted so well, but also because it is so contemporary.

The artist, Ties van Dijk (1873-1967), was anything but convinced of his own ability. He refused to exhibit due to lack of confidence, and in his will he specified that his work, of which there was quite a lot in his attic, was to be destroyed. Through the intervention of the estate housekeeper his friends selected a number of pieces to keep. Otherwise, this painting would also have been lost.

Incidentally, there was no reason for so much modesty. Ties van Dijk spent most of his working life in Edam (1903 until the mid-30s), where he was a lecturer at the school. For decades it was a renowned institution; many reputable teachers have taught there; many talented students have trained there.

The subject Van Dijk chose (the Great Church in Edam) is of course known to all Edam residents: it is what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. And, from the direction of Hoorn, it can be seen from afar. How nice it would be to think that Ties van Dijk, in the way that Cézanne did with the Mont Sainte-Victoire, always used this building as the starting point (in terms of colour there are similarities). We can only try to imagine it. As far as the manner of painting is concerned, there is a kinship with the (early) works of Gauguin.
It is worth the effort to lift this painting from the museum’s store and to inspect is carefully. It is proof that can might be called regional art can reach great heights. In all its stillness it is a small masterpiece.

Hayo Riemersma / conservator Edams Museum / 20-7-2017


Old News from the Museum

Peter Sluisman (the former curator) published a series about special objects that the museum has acquired. These articles have previously been published in the magazine for members of the Association of Old Edam.


Unique plate with the coat of arms of Emperor Charles V

Edam museum was recently loaned a beautiful earthenware plate with a diameter of 39cm, with an option to purchase. It was found a long time ago, in pieces, in the centre of Edam. The current owner is of the opinion that this dish should return to its place of origin. Not only a very valuable dish for the museum, but also for the city.

We are talking here about a dish from the heyday of the North Holland earthenware pottery between 1590 and 1650. In the 16th and 17th century, many places in North Holland developed and became wealthy. Think of cities such as Alkmaar, Enkhuizen, Hoorn, de Rijp, Edam also experienced its greatest prosperity during that period. Because of this prosperity there was a demand for luxury earthenware, especially the beautifully decorated slipware. All kinds of decorations were applied to the red-baked earthenware using soft white clay. Usually this was applied via a straw inserted into a hole in a cow’s horn (‘earring’ technique). This beautiful-looking pottery was ideal for commemorating special events: wedding plates, birth bowls, but also objects with only dates and names. In addition, also they are often decorated with soldiers, birds, flowers, heraldic motifs or biblical representations. The museum has a dish with an Adam and Eve image from this period.

When we look at this sign, the big double headed eagle with twisted curls between the heads immediately catches our eye. These twisted curls represent a fire being struck. Making fire has been difficult for centuries. A flint was struck with a piece of iron until it sparked, these sparks being used to ignite a ‘tinder fungus’ [fomes fomentarius] or other flammable material. The combination of a double eagle and fire immediately reminds one of Emperor Charles V. His motto was Plus Oultre: “Further beyond”. After all, he wanted his empire to become bigger and more powerful as a spreading fire. The fire symbolises this.


The fence on the Dam

foto collectie Sieuwers

At primary school a master told us that the fence on the benches on above the dam lock cannot rust and the smith had taken his secret to the grave. As children we thought this was an exciting story. Later I read that the fence came from the Town Hall that stood on the spot where the Lutheran church now stands. I realised that I, like many Edammers, almost never sat on those benches. Suddenly my eyes alighted on a number engraved in the ironwork, the number 6 and then a 9. I looked on the other side, the side by the Dam hotel and there saw the numbers 1 and 5: 1569. On the other side of the Dam I saw the self-same number, 1569. Thus, the iron fences on the Dam are dated. I remembered a booklet distributed by the Old Edam Association and the VVV (tourist office), with beautiful drawings from Jan Bouman, a unique illustrator, who had published a number of books entitled “Het merkwaerdigste mein bekent” [Curious marks known to me] Page 7 does indeed show the fence on the Dam and Bouwan writes that it is told that the fence can never rust and that it must be at least two centuries older than the Dam, whose keystone have the dates 1795 and 1798 on them. He also mentions that the fence on the west side (towards the Carillion tower) is dated 1596. He had transposed the numbers and didn’t mention the other side.

Returning to the idea that the fences came from the earlier Town Hall. That was constructed in 1547 / 48, around the same time as the museum building. It seems plausible that, in 1569, people would have put a few benches with forged railings in front of the Town Hall. Were such benches not already made during the construction? Why then do the benches have different decorations? The booklet, “Het huis met de Swaan” (“The house with the Swan”) by Corrie Boschma-Aarnoudse and MA van de Eerden-Vonk has seven images of the old Town Hall. On four of these we see benches with, and on three, benches without, iron railings. This doesn’t explain us everything as draughtsmen and engravers did not always aim to make a photographic record. But they are all images of the Town Hal before it was demolished. And, indeed, there seem to be similarities between the fencing in the images and that on the Dam. It is not such a strange idea to assume the fence would be used on the Dam. Such beautiful ironmongery cost a lot and, in 1737, when the current Town Hall was built and the old one demolished, money was tight so people didn’t like to throw anything away. Thus, you could image that the fencing on the Dam could have originated from the old Town Hall. However, there are still a few loose ends.

The thesis “Tot verbeteringe van de neeringe deser Stede” by Corrie Boschma-Aarnoudse, describes “De banken op de vrouwensluis (huidige Dam) werden vervangen door weeg- en visbanken met ijzeren leuningen, zoals wij die nu nog kennen. Roelof Dircsz Smit kreeg hiervoor 65 gulden uitbetaald”. [“The benches on the women’s dike (now known as the Dam) were replaced by weighing and fishing benches with iron railings, just as we now know them. For which, Roelof Dircsz Smith was paid 65 Guilders.”]

In the town accounts I read that in 1659, a certain Jan Claesz Maechels delivered bolts for the rails on the women’s bridge, the tower, the weigh and fishing benches and others and that Roeloef Sircsz Smith was paid for ironwork. The annual accounts match with the dates on the ironwork. The differences in decoration and details, such as knobs on one side and caps on the other now seem better explained. In many towns there were fishing benches on both sides of the water. The one side was for the citizens or residents and the other was for non-residents. Unfortunately, there are no clear marks or engravings of the fishing banks. But this is more likely than the assumption that the ironwork comes from benches by the old Town Hall. As the images show that the forged fencing for the old Town Hall still there until 1737. The only thing that we know for certain is that the iron railings are dated and are made to fit. They have dots where the blacksmith has indicated how the parts had to be forged/ welded together.

There is still the question of how it is that the iron can’t rust. It appears that this iron has a high carbon content, which is known to slow rusting. This is probably just by chance because in that time iron was imported from, among other places, Germany. Also, no other ironwork in Edam is known to have this special property..


Two folding tables

The table in the (living) room or kitchen is unmissable, the focus of daily living and indispensable for many tasks. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a large extendable table with bulbous legs was usually found in the centre of the living room of well-off citizens, surrounded by other, heavy oak, statement furniture. But there was also the need for console tables and a sort of side table, the folding table; of which there were many configurations. They were lower quality and cheaper; light easily replaced furniture typically colourfully painted. This was folk at its best, saying something about the character and the nature of the region. The museum collection has some such in its collection.

In the Zaan region ,in the middle of the 17th century, the ‘oerklaptafel’, (original folding table) was developed – a three-legged design with one leg which could be folded away. The table top was usually octagonal. Initially the decoration consisted of engraved shapes. Later these were painted in bright colours and yet later still the fashion with only the legs being carved. The earlier versions were made of oak. The museum has such an example, except that the top is twelve-sided. It is engraved on the underside with a date, 1672, two names, Jan Muis (mouse) and Bet Beer (bear) in the form of symbols (rebus) and a location, ‘Munckedam’. The inclusion of a year and the rebuses suggest that this was a wedding gift to a couple from Monnikendam
.

foto collectie EM


‘Ugly duckling’

In the kitchen of the merchant’s house there was an 18th century, painted softwood table in the English ‘gate-leg’ style. This is a narrow four-legged table with a hanging leaf at each side. The English version is usually made of oak and never painted whereas the Dutch ones are usually made of softwood and painted. The folding table was bought by the museum in 1903 and has probably always been displayed in the kitchen. One leaf shows ships sailing while the other is of a landscape with cows. The whole is decorated with curls and rocailles (beads or shells), as was fashionable in the 18th century.

One of the curators from the Open-Air Museum (OLM) took a look at our worn-out painted table to a prime position from our store during a quiet period. His reaction was “I’m lost for words I still have to check it, but it could be that this is the only table in the Netherlands.” “The only table in the Netherlands?” I asked. “I know that the Zaans museum also has a painted table and your own museum also has a few”. “Yes, that’s right,” he replied, “but this is probably the only copy that has never been repainted or painted over and that makes it unique”. A few days later he e-mailed confirming this table is indeed the only one in Dutch museums that is still original with its original painting. He also gave a number of addresses of specialists who could protect the table from further decay.

foto collectie EM

‘Appearances are deceptive’

The beautiful 17th century oak folding table from Monnikendam seemed original and precious, but the top was found to be been made much later and so it relegated it to a more modest location. Conversely the table didn’t look a masterpiece. It can be viewed in the museum – on the first floor of the oldest stone house in Edam, at Damplein 8.


A visit to the Portuguese Synagogue

collectie EM

The synagogue in Amsterdam opposite the Jewish Historical museum has recently been restored. There I noticed a number of richly decorated Torah mantles [Torah = Law]. A Torah mantle is protective cover over a Temple’s Torah [legal scroll]. It took a while but suddenly I remember an unidentified piece of textile in the museum store. It looked similar, although not so richly decorated, but my curiosity was awakened.

Immediately on arriving at the museum store I took another good look, took some more photos and emailed them to the Jewish Historical Museum asking if this indeed a Torah mantle. The next day I got an email from Mrs Faber, (head collections) she told me that the object was very similar, but that there was a hole at the top for the Torah shaft. Books were grabbed and eventually we came to the conclusion that it was indeed a Torah mantle, but used by Sephardic Jews. For this division group Judaism, Torah mantles were also made without opening at the top.

Sephardic Jews originated from Portugal and Spain, they had mostly fled the inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries. The question that immediately came to mind was, were there Edam Sephardic Jews and how did such a mantle end up in the museum’s store.

The first report in Edam dates November 1641: Samuel Abrahamsz was given permission to live in Amsterdam until May 1642. Then it is long silence, until 1722 when Moses Morino Monsanto a Portuguese Jew is given permission to settle. It was all a little difficult, because we were not yet that tolerant and, after a lot of protests from the local population, the permission to settle was withdrawn. Apparently only Jews from outside were allowed to trade regularly in the city, because in 1770 a number of shopkeepers complained that Jews and foreigners were trading in such a way that they were afraid of excessive competition. The result was an extra city tax for those groups.
By 1779 there are enough Jewish families in Edam (at least 10 men) to carry out services.

The local synagogue was at people’s homes at different locations. There will also have been a Torah scroll, a valuable item, costing about 1 year’s professional salary. That is why it was very treated very carefully and covered in protective jacket after services. On April 29, 1791, Moses and Marcus Berlin advised on a synagogue in the North Side (a back room). After a renovation, this building was put into use as a synagogue in August 1791. It lasted until 1886. Probably the remaining possessions were then transferred to the Jewish community in Monnikendam, where the three remaining families from Edam went to live.

Back to our Torah mantle (which, by the way, is very simple) we are speculating a little, but the story could have gone as follows. In 1779 there are more than 10 men and the first municipality therefore has a Torah scroll and Torah mantle. Supposing that such a protective coat lasts for about 50 years, then in around 1830 another one was would have been made, probably this one. This fits well with the date in the middle of the 19th century
.

bron: Joods Historisch museum – De Joodse gemeente van Edam 1779-1886 door F.Schoonheim

Two pieces of Delft pottery

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Delft pottery is one of the important Dutch achievements of the 17th and 18th centuries, when it succeeded in making “plateel” [a decorating technique], which approached the Oriental porcelain in colour, shape and decoration. Many individuals and museums, in their own country and beyond, have created collections in the last 150 years. Edam museum has obtained most of the objects from donations..

On the left a pristine blue-decorated spittoon with text date and mark on the bottom. This spitting tray for tobacco chewing men was commissioned for Marten gerritsz Mars in the year of our lord 1742. On the underside, it is marked with the letter D and the number 13 meaning the spittoon was probably marked by Zacharias Dextra, owner of the plate factory De Drie Vergulde Astonne in Delft between 1721-1757.

The wonderful combination of letters on the object to the right, a decorative place from the second half of the 18th century, is more difficult to explain. My thoughts are led towards a religiously reformed family. Catholics usually had a crucifix or Christ image in their home. This sign refers to the omnipresent God and to the responsibilities people have in life. From the middle letter to the right: G (od) W (eet) A (lles); upwards: G (od) H (oort) A (lles); down: G (od) S (iet) A (lles); left: G (od) K (ent) A (lles)

God knows everything; God hears everything; God sees everything and God knows everyone


Special tobacco case

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From the Folk-art exhibition (2008) in Waterland, North Holland, which showed not only utensils from the Edam Museum’s store, but also from private collections. From the latter category, one object is so special that attention is paid to it in here. It is a tobacco box that was made for Pieter Holm, a Swede. He was born around 1685 and went to sea at a young age. Around 1720 he set gave up his career as a sailor and settled in Amsterdam. There he started a school for future sailors. On the facade was written “Regt Door Zee” [Sail a Straight Course] and thus was the first nautical school in Amsterdam created.


Bodebussen [Badges of office]

A museum like ours is constantly looking for things to complement and improve the collection. In addition, one must also have some luck which we had in 2009, discovering 3 Edam ‘bodebus’. The middle one, shown with a pendant, is the oldest: probably 17th century.

foto Periodiek Oud Edam

A bodebus is a distinctive official decoration or worn symbol. In earlier times it was a distinguishing sign worn by messengers in the service of governing bodies, such as the Houses of Government, the Provincial States, Municipal Governments, district and national Water Boards, and the Polders. Initially people think of sort of container. With reason. The history of the bodebus dates back to the earliest Middle Ages. Messengers who had to transmit messages carried these handwritten and sometimes beautifully works of calligraphy with the seal of the client in a container attached to their belt. The container often also carried the client’s seal. “Bus” is derived from the Greek “pyxis”, originally a palm wood box, in Christianity this is a cup-shaped barrel in which the hosts are kept. Sometimes a messenger carried a staff when he was traveling.

Amsterdam has such a messenger’s staff. Often the messenger, identifiable by the official badge, could make free use of public transport, such as barges, ferries or stagecoaches. From the fifteenth century onwards, a shield was added to the bodebus, with the authority’s coat of arms. The separation between container and decoration probably started at this time. The word “bus” was also maintained for the decoration. The container with papers would later become a leather bag.

Nowadays the orders of the municipality of Edam-Volendam bear on their lapels a badge with the combined municipal coat of arms as a sign of their function.

Returning to our three gilded silver bodebuses: two show great similarities while the third is very different. The third is the oldest one, possibly from the 17th century and comes from the old Town Hall (<1737) Unfortunately, the original silversmith can no longer be traced, because after a repair, the silversmith Gijsbert van der Klos (1776-1812) from Amsterdam put his mark exactly over the old label.

The second bodebus was probably made to commemorate the new Town Hall in 1737. As far as I know, Edam never had more than two in use in the 19th century, so the oldest would have fallen into disuse by then. This is just guesswork because the two younger badges do show the brand of the silversmith Hermanus Lintveld (1797 – 1812) from Amsterdam, but here too there are older brands. The chains of these two are marked with the master mark of silversmith Wouter Wylacker (1753-1807), also from Amsterdam. It is striking that on the two newest badges the city coat of arms is not only held at the top by a lion, but is also held on both sides by two lions facing forwards. That is not in accordance with the rules. Other municipalities in North Holland also deviated from the rules. This variation makes the items possibly more remarkable. It is unsurprising that the badges were made in Amsterdam, because there was a lot of correspondence between the two cities and Amsterdam had many good silversmiths. In 1663, a guild of silversmiths was also established in Edam, but work by these craftsmen is hardly known and that guild may been dissolved by 1737. Only a silver spoon from before 1700 is known.

However, a new guild was discussed in 1734. Apparently, the brewery was operating again and the year letter P was agreed for the year 1734. So, shortly before the new Town Hall was built, it is quite conceivable that a local silversmith has been commissioned to make a badge.
After a constructive discussion with our mayor, Mr. W. Verbeek, the boxes are no longer in the municipal office but in the museum where everyone can admire them.


A very small-scale sculpted representation in a cabinet, a so-called Bavelaar

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Bavelaars are small dioramas cut from wood or bone, placed in a wooden box behind glass. They can be representations of landscapes, ships or views in and around the house. The background of the cupboards is always blue. They derive their name from Cornelis Bavelaar (1747-1830) sculptor, and his son Cornelis (1777-1831) carpenter and artist.
The son of Cornelis de Jonge, Joannes Fransiscus was the third and last of the family who made these boxes. Our museum piece is a paper cutting, with a faded blue background, most likely by someone following in the style.


Governors’ signs

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In some large cities, governors or trustees of orphanages, from the well-to-do citizenry, immortalized themselves in a painting or through beautifully calligraphed signs. Similarly, in Edam. Mrs. Alie Koorn-Tuin, one of the last orphans from the Protestant Orphanage, still remembered the wall signs with the names of the governors and trustees who hung in the hallway of the house (interview in periodical year 28, no. 3, 2004). The Protestant Orphanage formed as a result of a merger in 1811 of the Armen orphanage and the Citizen’s orphanage. In 1965 the house was close and the possessions transferred to the District Council. The office of the director of the orphanage is still used by the Mayor. The wall signs ended up in the municipal archive at the office in Volendam, where I recently saw them. After consultation with the relevant officials, the wall signs were transferred to the museum in Edam. A number of these were hung in the Mayor’s room in the old Town Hall. This room was formerly also used by the orphans, the chimney breast still has a reminder. A wish was fulfilled…..


It doesn’t have to be complete

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Some time ago I had to be at the Public Works Department. After I reporting to the receptionist, I took a seat. Looking around, I discovered a display case on the wall containing shards and pieces. This kind of wall decoration always attracts my attention. A small tile said that these were found residues in sewage works that had started in September 1974 (all over Edam). The majority of the items were of little value, but a few objects seemed interesting. These lingered at the back of my mind. After a few weeks I was there again and again I looked in the display case. I started to like the fragments and thought that they should not stay there covered in dust but be displayed in the museum in Edam. “Ultimately, they were found in Edam, so they belong there”. When I reached the official who could make such a decision, he looked surprised and asked which fragments I meant. He promised to look at it and then let me know. When I met the person in question a few weeks ago after a conversation about the renovation of the museum, I asked ‘And how are the fragments?’ He answered spontaneously ‘You can pick them up’. I did that immediately.


Museum library houses mighty books

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The museum has built up a nice library over the years. Already, at the time of founding in 1895, private individuals had donated books to the museum. Unfortunately, this collection of books was not accessible to the public and as such the museum did not do much with it. For that reason, a large number of books relating to the Society for Universal Benefit were previously transferred to the Waterlands Archive, where they are accessible to the public. Last year the board decided to transfer the other books there. The books are stored in itemised boxes. These must be sorted and digitized. In itself a whole chore, with a number of people involved under the leadership of our elder statesman Gerrit Conijn.


A special find from a dredger

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Recently, the Museum acquired a sign that was found when dredging a ditch. Such a find is rarely, if ever, whole so must be restored to look complete and beautiful again. There were also a number of pieces missing on this sign. When I saw the sign for the first time, I had something of recognition, but it took a while before I knew it and looked it up. At first sight it looks like an 18th century sign with a representation of a shepherd and a shepherdess. Nothing special, but the special is in the story behind it. This plate was made between 1630 and 1650. Most probably at the earthenware company Verstraeten in Haarlem. Delft would also be a possible option but signs with the same quality and similar subjects are often attributed to Verstraeten. Father Willem Verstraeten initially focused on making jewels, the so-called majolica, which is pottery made from non-white baking clays, covered with tin glaze, creating a white background on which colourful decors were applied. He started in 1625 with his pottery factory in Haarlem; incidentally, he had already earned his spurs in Delft. His company flourished, his decors were strongly influenced in style and colour by the Italian majolica. Coats of arms were also part of his specialty. Documents show that he must have had 40 to 50 employees.


Lady Justice gives a secret prize

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Sometimes there are those discoveries that can amaze you, but also give a lot of pleasure. As an extraordinary civil servant of the Civil Registry, I regularly visit the former ships’ hall, now the council chamber of the old Town Hall. In that role I often begin with the history of the council chamber and describe what the paintings on the walls represent. Above the fireplace, Lady Justice is blindfolded and holding balanced scales above a somewhat strange chained figure. The person depicted has a male face, but a female upper body. It was never clear to me who or what was depicted. Until recently. At some point I had to be in the council chamber when the sunlight fell exactly on the painting of Lady Justice and suddenly my eyes alighted on the rasta-like hair of that strange figure. In the bright light, the dreadlocks in the hair seemed to end up in snakeheads. On closer examination, it turned out to be exactly that. And thus, it became clear to me who is pictured, Medusa, a very well-known figure from Greek mythology.

It is said that she was a beauty, which did not go unnoticed by Poseidon, the god of the sea. She made love with him in the temple of the goddess Athena and was punished her for that sacrilege by turning her beautiful hair into a nest of snakes and making her face disgusting.

Note to web editors: late insights require us to report that the presumed image of Medusa must be called into question: Medusa was a beauty and usually depicted in art as such. The figure in the painting by C.W. Rave is probably Invidia the personification of the fourth of the seven deadly sins: greed and envy. A relief in the Schepenzaal of Amsterdam City Hall (Royal Palace on Dam Square) supports that argument, given the resemblance. And finally, Rave was an Amsterdam painter, and so perhaps he was inspired by it.


The funeral of Michiel de Ruyter (the horseman)

Michiel de Ruyter Michiel de Ruyter

foto Rijksmuseum

When checking the museum’s archive boxes, I came across a special document, namely an invitation for the funeral of our greatest naval hero Michiel Adriaansz. de Ruyter. The existence of this document was known to a few people, but they never mentioned this. Actually, I did not know what I saw, a death card from 1677 for such a famous man. How did the museum come acquire it and who sent it at the time? Both questions are not easy to answer. The invitation has been in the museum’s archive for decades and was probably donated. In Edam there were at that time four or five people to whom it could have been sent. But first, back to our Admiral Michiel de Ruyter.

On March 24, 1607, Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter was born in Vlissingen. He went to sea at a young age. There he progressed from ship’s boy to skipper. After a career in whaling, privateering and in merchant shipping he was asked to join the admiralty of Zeeland. De Ruyter is best known for his role in important naval battles. In battles against Spaniards, Frenchmen, Englishmen and pirates he proved to have an excellent insight. Because of his successes, he was eventually appointed commander-in-chief of the Dutch fleet. His most famous achievement was the trip to Chatham in 1667, a daring plan by Johan de Witt. The chain that had been stretched across the Thames was destroyed, and the fleet went up the Thames and then to the Medway to where the English fleet lay. Virtually the entire English fleet was destroyed, as well as yards and warehouses. Only when the tide turned, did the low water force the Dutch to retreat.

On 29 April 1676 the Ruyter was killed in the battle against the French at Syracuse in Sicily. He was 69 years old at the time. Remarkably, he was buried almost eleven months later, on March 18, 1677. Apparently, his body was preserved on board.

In the 17th century, during de Ruyter’s admiralty, five captains from Edam who fought under him, namely Decker, Corle, Boes, Brother and Jacob Andries Zwart. They had received an obituary message, because, with the exception of Corle they walked along in the funeral procession to the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

These captains are probably buried in our Great Church. We only have the names for four of them, but Jacob Andries Zwart has been preserved with a commemorative plaque and a beautiful tombstone.


The apostle Peter appears from the paint

olieverf paneel

It could well be one of the last discoveries of paintings by our Museum. In a chest of drawers there were three uncatalogued panels, held together by a thin batten. After cleaning and restoration, a seventeenth-century biblical representation of the apostle Peter appeared. The panels in question have been in our possession for a long time, maybe a hundred years. You may wonder how you can discover something that you have owned for so long. In the past, not everything was photographed and certainly not digitized, but were listed on index cards. Purchases, gifts and loans were also mentioned in the old annual reports. Recently years we have made a lot of progress, photographing and digitising items. The three panels mentioned were found in a chest, unframed; Three panels held together by a thin batten with nasty nails. One had already come loose and warped. The images were hard to see, there seemed to be Roman soldiers, a figure with a book, a window grill and a lamp. The whole was covered with what can best be described as a kind of tar. Gerrit Conijn, our expert, and I had looked at the individual panels several times, but hadn’t learnt much. Perhaps it was a biblical representation as suggested in the accompanying card. If it was biblical, which scene was it? If the scene was unclear, searching in the old annual reports was just as difficult. It turned out to be a fairly exact copy of a print by Jan van der Straet, published in 1582 as part of a series of prints with important passages from the apostles’ life, the Acta Apostolorum (Acts of the Apostles). The panel comprises three horizontal planks showing a dark interior with barred window and two arched alcoves. A lamp hangs in the right alcove, illuminating the room. In the left are an angel and a man with a book under his arm. Seven men are resting in the main room with another looking through the window with a view of a woman sleeping in another room. Four of the eight men carry soldiers’ equipment (helmets, curas – breastplates and backplates, lances, shields).

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