This painting is on view in Het Haags Historisch Museum in the exhibition African servants at The Hague court.
This exhibition tells the life stories of Willem Frederik Cupido, Guan Anthony Sideron and other African servants who, in slavery, were offered as presents to European courts during the eighteenth century. The exhibition highlights an aspect of Dutch history that so far has remained relatively unknown. Whereas exhibitions about courtly life often overlook servants, and especially those with a non-European background.
Usually, African servants were only depicted in paintings in the shadow of their ‘lord’ or ‘lady. An individual portrait such as this one is rare.
Unfortunately, little is knwon about the identity of the man in the portrait. He was presumably a servant to merchant Adriaan Boesses. After an extended stay in East India, Boesses returned to the Netherlands in 1787. Of the twelf passengers on board his ship from Cape the Good Hope, where he had a long stop to visit his nice, seven had been enslaved probably including the person depicted here.
Boesses was later appointed burgomaster of Haarlem by William V. His daughter married Count Abraham van Bylandt and the couple moved to Amerongen castle. Is was probably through her that this portrait of a servant came to hang in Amerongen Castle.
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Nieuwe info uit kasteel Amerongen:
Gesteld wordt dat Abraham van Bylandt en zijn vrouw Anna Adrienne Severeijn Boesses op kasteel Amerongen hebben gewoond en zo het schilderij van haar vader in Amerongen is gekomen.
Dit is niet waar. Haar kleindochter Louise van Bylandt trouwde met Godard van Aldenburg Bentinck en die woonde op kasteel Amerongen. Het schilderij zal dan via vererving door Louise in Amerongen terecht zijn gekomen.
Met vriendelijke groet,
Rondleider/Onderzoeker kasteel Amerongen
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)
All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.