The Golden Age

De Gouden Eeuw



gbThe Golden Age (2011)

Frame (walnut) made in 1880

Dimensions ± 243 x 380 cm


This work depicts the shipyard at the Chamber of the Dutch East India Company on the Oostenburg peninsula near Amsterdam. I based the work on a painting by Ludolf Bakhuyzen (1631-1708).
I read a lot about the time and the people that I portray and I purchase quite a few books. These are antique books from the period because in their use of language you can feel the strength and the timbre of the time.
The painting is about seafaring, about the pioneers of the time, about the unstoppable power of man, about what motivates him, about the different cultures and cultural mixing, about the 17th century and how it overlaps with the present day, about the symbolism of what you can achieve as a human being.
It was a time that revealed man’s potential because this was at its peak in all sorts of areas. At the same time, there are parallels with today’s world.

I have portrayed twelve Revolutionary Characters whose positive impact appeals to me. It was they who made possible this extraordinary era – the Dutch Golden Age – and also partly created it.
I have chosen these people for their individual revolutions, the changes that they brought about whose influence extends across the centuries.

The work is painted on a panel that is completely covered with paper dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
A large amount of this paper comes from a book published in 1701 about the life of Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676).
Over that I have used black & white patterned transparent so that the text below remains legible and living.

In my approach to this work, I have combined together realism, futurism and cubism so that it seems as if cubism and futurism already existed in the Golden Age.
I wanted this innocent conflict in this work – as if time is irrelevant and there is no difference between the present and the past.




De Gouden Eeuw

Ik heb uit die tijd twaalf Revolutionaire Persoonlijkheden weergegeven die me aanspreken vanwege hun positieve impact.



Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695)

The discoverer of probability.

A Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer.
He invented the pendulum clock (his patent dates from 1656) and, in the field of mechanics, he was the first person to formulate the laws of elastic collision and centrifugal force.
He discovered the rings of Saturn and its moon Titan and was the first person to explain light as a wave phenomenon with the Huygens-Fresnel Principle. He was a pioneer of the theory of probability.
He was also an inventor and a science-fiction writer.
He was a significant figure in astronomy, optics (lenses/telescopes), acoustics (the discoverer of 31 equal temperament), sound perception and the principle of the steam engine.



Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

Organist in Amsterdam and European master of music

A Dutch organist and composer, Sweelinck was a pupil of his father whom he succeeded as the organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. As well as 254 vocal works (motets, psalms, madrigals and chansons), he composed at least 70 works for the organ (toccatas, fantasias, etc.).
To some extent, Sweelinck can be regarded as a precursor of J.S. Bach.
He was nicknamed ‘the Amsterdam Orpheus’.
Sweelinck was famed throughout Europe as a composer and musical pedagogue.



Louis de Geer (1587-1652)

The King of the Merchants

The extraordinary thing about Louis de Geer was that he was so much more than just a great merchant.
He was a banker, an industrialist (textiles/metal/weapons), a diplomatic agent, a politician and a warrior.
He was an international figure, comparable with an important businessman of the present day: the whole world was his home.
He treated his personnel well, for the time.

He introduced the Walloon blast furnaces into Sweden, was granted the monopoly on the copper and iron trade by the Swedish king and created the first large-scale industrial complex in Sweden (forges, foundries and rolling mills).
He manufactured cannons, bullets, guns, harnesses, pickaxes, ingots, anchors, copper, steel and iron wire, wire nails, horseshoes and nails.



Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678)

Learning and life must be in harmony with each other

Anna Maria van Schurman was the highly gifted daughter (she could already read at the age of four) of Frederik von Schurman and Eva von Harff de Dreiborn who developed into a humanist, linguist, theologian, poet and painter.
In 1636, she was the first woman allowed to attend lectures at university (Utrecht). However, she did have to sit behind a curtain so that male students could not see her.
She corresponded or had contact with Jacob Cats, Anna Roemer Visscher, Gisbertus Voetius, Daniël Heinsius, Caspar Barlaeus, Constantijn Huygens, Elisabeth van de Palts, René Descartes, Christina of Sweden and Bathsua Making. She excelled in her studies of foreign languages such as French, German, English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean (Urartian), Aramaic, Ethiopian, Arabic and Syriac.
In 1669, Anna Maria van Schurman joined the Labadists, a mystical sect founded by an ex-Jesuit, Jean de Labadie. The foremost aim of this group was purity of thought. They sought after the inner presence of God in man and put less emphasis on the Scriptures.



Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)

A martyr to science

Swammerdam was a Dutch scientist who described the mechanism of respiration. He graduated from the University of Leiden with a thesis on respiration but never worked as a physician.
In addition to this, Swammerdam was one of the first to prove that the male sperm cell fertilises the female egg. He was a pioneering biologist who had been interested in the life of insects from an early age. The high-point of this was a monograph on bees. He was one of the founders of entomology.
Swammerdam developed the theory of preformation, according to which offspring are present in miniature form in the sperm and egg cell and thus only need to grow. He concluded this principally from the way in which insects develop, from caterpillar to pupa.
He played a major role in the development of our present understanding of nerve and muscle function. He proved that the brain and not the circulation of the blood is responsible for muscle contraction.
He developed new techniques for the treatment, preservation and dissection of specimens.
He demonstrated the scientific possibilities of the microscope and his techniques proved useful for hundreds of years.
There is no known portrait of Jan Swammerdam.



Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)

The Oracle of Delft
Hugo Grotius, also known as Hugo de Groot, was a jurist and writer.
His most famous work is ‘De Jure Belli ac Pacis – On the Law of War and Peace’ published in 1625. The work is the basis of modern international law.
His book ‘Mare liberum – The Free Seas’ is well-known for its plea for free access to the seas (and free trade). His ideas on seafaring still dominate a major part of modern maritime law.
His books were reprinted with the original text in 1925.
Grotius was imprisoned during the religious controversies. In 1621, he escaped from imprisonment in Loevestein Castle in a chest of books, helped by his wife Maria van Reigersberch.



Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547-1619)

The Centre of the Western World
Van Oldenbarnevelt was a Dutch statesman (the immediate successor of William the Silent) and a lawyer.
His motto: knowing nothing is the safest belief.
His ideal: division of church and state.
He was a champion of allowing difference of opinion.
He was well-known for his competence and for the fact that he never parted with anything.
He managed to make the States General the highest governmental body, thereby further extending his political power and influence.
In 1596, he concluded the Triple Alliance with England and France against Spain. In this, England and France recognised the independence of the Republic (of the Seven United Provinces), which rapidly developed into a world power.
In 1602, he established the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Following the coup d’état of Prince Maurice, he was sentenced to death for high treason. He was beheaded on the Binnenhof in The Hague on 13th May 1619. There was a great deal of criticism of this sentence. Joost van den Vondel wrote two poems in protest.



Simon Stevin (1548-1620)

Wonderful, yet not unfathomable
 Stevin was a wizard, a passionate mathematician, a genius.
 He was an applied physicist and engineer.
 He discovered decimal fractions and applied mathematics to fort construction. As a pioneer he made many contributions to the theory and practice of mathematics and physics and to applied sciences such as hydraulic engineering and surveying.
 He was the discoverer of the ‘parallelogram of forces’ for calculating the combined effect of two different forces acting together on an object.
 He carried out fall tests from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft in which he refuted the theory of Aristotle that the time of fall of a large mass is shorter than that of a small mass.
 With his well-known quote “Wonderful, yet not unfathomable”, he stated that phenomena can be explained logically.
 The ‘Clootcrans’ Proof (the ‘clootcrans’ is a wreath of spheres) is an example of his graphic method of demonstrating proofs: without equilibrium, the wreath should move. Stevin used it as his emblem.
 Thanks to Stevin, the Dutch language got its own scientific words such as ‘wiskunde’ for mathematics and ‘wijsbegeerte’ for philosophy.
 In about 1590, he was an adviser to Prince Maurice and was commissioned to draw up a training programme for a school of engineering at the University of Leiden.



Nicolaes Witsen (1641 – 1717)

The wise merchant

As well as being a mayor of Amsterdam (13 times) and a director of the Dutch East India Company, Nicolaes Witsen was also an enthusiastic lover of science. Thanks to his eminent position, he was able to initiate a number of very large research projects, which were primarily focused on stimulating overseas trade.
Witsen was completely unique in being a private individual who conducted his research on an unprecedentedly large scale.
For modern scholars, his worldwide research in so many different fields is a goldmine for anthropologists, marine historians, cartographers, linguists, biologists, historians specialising in the history of attitudes, and art historians.
His enormous network of people throughout the world and his extraordinary friendship with Tsar Peter the Great made Witsen a truly unique individual.
He was an ardent collector of rarities. In his house (Herengracht 440) he assembled a major collection of drawings, books, lacquer-work, porcelain, weapons, statues, paintings, archaeological finds, coins, precious stones, insects, animal specimens, corals and shells.
He behaved as a patron of the arts and sciences. 46 writers dedicated books to him.



Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaar (1526-1588)

A first name of significance

Kenau was a shipbuilder and wood merchant who is known mostly for her fierce resistance at the siege of Haarlem during the Eighty Years’ War.
A myth arose around her character and she became the symbol of female bravery.
The image of Kenau as a hard-headed businesswoman was partly due to the tenacity with which she conducted legal proceedings against debtors and with which she pursued these debtors regardless of siege or warfare. She also sued the city of Haarlem that had never paid her for the wood that she supplied.
In 1574, the States of Holland appointed Kenau to the office of Weighing House Master and collector of taxes on peat in Arnemuiden, a post that was unusual for a single woman at this time.
Kenau’s name appears both in encyclopaedias of Dutch history and also in dictionaries. This does not happen often. She is one of the few heroines of Dutch history and is still not entirely forgotten thanks to the significance of her name: a synonym for combative, strong, brave, or a shrewish (?) woman.
What happened to Kenau remains a mystery. According to her daughters, she was murdered by pirates during a sea voyage to Norway to purchase wood. But what actually happened has never been discovered.



Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

De goddeloze godzoeker

Baruch (of Benedictus) Spinoza is een van de belangrijkste filosofen en zeker de meest radicaal- van de vroegmoderne tijd. Hij was naast Descartes en Leibniz een van de rationalisten van deze vroege filosofie.
Hij was de eerste die het bestaan van wonderen en het bovennatuurlijke ter discussie stelde. In die tijd een gevaarlijk uitgangspunt.
In 1670 heeft hij een stuk gepubliceerd dat het oudste pleidooi is voor de vrijheid van godsdienst, spreken en schrijven dat we kennen. Samen met Locke was hij de eerste die de principiële tolerantie verdedigde. Hij baseerde zich op de kenmerken van de mens waardoor er een symmetrische relatie ontstond tussen tolereerder en getolereerde.
Zijn uiterst naturalistische opvattingen over God, de wereld, de mens en kennis, dienen een morele filosofie gericht op de beheersing van de passies die leidt tot deugd en geluk.
Zijn opvattingen leggen ook de basis voor een sterk democratisch politiek denken en een diepe kritiek op de pretentie van de schrift en sektarische religie.
Zijn bekendste werk “Ethica” werd na zijn dood uitgegeven.
In de Joodse traditie moest een geleerde ook een handwerk beheersen: Spinoza was lenzenslijper.
Al op jonge leeftijd concludeerde Spinoza dat de geschriften uit de Thora onmogelijk door God konden zijn geschreven en noemt ze “uitvindingen van de menselijke fantasie” tot grote ontzetting van de rabbi’s.
In 1656 wordt hij uit de Sefardische gemeente verbannen. Spinoza onderwierp zich aan het Hollands recht in plaats van het Joodse en keerde zich hiermee tegen de wetten en gewoonten van de Joodse gemeenschap.
Enkele jaren later nam hij de naam Benedictus aan, de Latijnse vertaling van Baruch.
Van alle filosofen uit de 17e eeuw, is er misschien niemand die vandaag meer relevantie heeft dan Spinoza.



Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Hollandse meester

Rembrandt – Vondel – Spinoza zijn wellicht de drie grootste geesten van de “Gouden Eeuw”.
Ik kan veel over Rembrandt citeren en meedelen maar daarmee kan ik niets toevoegen.
Zijn personages die hij heeft geschilderd, vertellen net zoveel als iemand die je in levende lijve ontmoet.
Rembrandt is zo levend in het nù over heel de wereld, hij heeft nooit opgehouden te bestaan.