Yesterday I visited the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam. The museum holds a very large collection of paintings from the “Golden Age” of the Netherlands. This was when the Netherlands was the richest country on earth in the 1600′s. They did it through military conquests, battles with Spain and England, and through trading. Amsterdam was the New York of its time and the beautiful canals and buildings I saw over the weekend are from that era.
I was particularly interested in beside the master Rembrandt, paintings of people involved in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This was the publicly traded business (equivalent of today’s multinational corporation) that went all around the world buying and selling goods for incredible profits. Being an expatriate in the “Golden Age” of the USA, I can relate to the Dutch that lived in various parts of the world.
Pictured above is a Dutch family in Batavia which is today’s Indonesia. The painting is from 1672 and it is by Jacob Jansz Coeman. It features a portrait of Pieter Cnoll and his family posed in their tropical villa. You will notice the two servants in the far right. Cnoll was the head accountant of the VOC in Asia and his wife was the daughter of a VOC official and a Japanese courtesan (a high class prostitute). Sounds much like Thailand today. The two children are truly TCK (Third Culture Kids) and they seem to be well off. Of course, I am a teacher and not a businessman and not as well off as that family was, but I can totally relate to them.
The rest of the museum is absolutely fantastic. There are huge oil painting from the era depicting daily life three hundred plus years ago. It felt like I was there, the works are so realistic. The master Rembrandt’s paintings were very impressive. I have limited appreciation of art, so I judge works that I can’t personally do (realism) as great while abstract works that I could do as not so great. There were also lots of pieces from the naval battles with England and Spain that I particularly liked. I highly recommend visiting the museum when you go to Amsterdam.
Another VOC Merchant in Batavia