Notable servants in two museums in The Hague.
At this moment pictures with, writings by and documents about African servants (Willem Frederik Cupido, Guan Anthony Sideron and Jean Rabo) are on show in the Hague Historical museum. Next to this museum another famous servant is shown in the exhibition: Portraits from flanders in The Mauritshuis
In this exhibition with major works by Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Pieter Pourbus, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck almost all the sitters can be identified.
The striking portrait of Abraham Grapheus by the Antwerp-based portrait painter Cornelis de Vos has been restored specially for this exhibition.
From the Mauritshuis website:
‘Portraits were usually commissioned by the sitter or his family. In the case of Abraham Grapheus, however, it was the portraitist Cornelis de Vos who had the idea to paint his likeness. In 1620, De Vos gave Grapheus’s portrait to the guildhall of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke when he became its dean. Old Grapheus’s distinctive face was a familiar sight in Antwerp painters’ circles. As the ‘knaep’ (a kind of custodian or caretaker), he was responsible for the day-to-day running of the guild. Among his many tasks was the organisation of guild festivities.
De Vos portrayed Grapheus as he must often have appeared at such celebrations. With an apron tied around his waist and a jug in his hand, he casts a stern glance at something taking place outside the picture, ready to intervene at any moment. The decorations on his chest are so-called breuken: shield-shaped silver insignias that belonged to the guild.’
There is another striking painting from a less known painter, Antonie van Steenwinckel, on show.
It is a selfportrait. Behind the mirror another individual is visible. His name is not known. An assistent? The painter when young? A servant?
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In 2008 I was guest curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors: Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues, Warburg institute Image of the Black in Western Art collection), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research for The Image of the Black in Western Art available to me.
In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)
In 2017 I published a book about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. (only in Dutch)
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