The exhibition will open in August
Translated by Thomas Ansell
A massive painting from the Frisian port city of Dokkum will be travelling to the Rijksmueum in Amsterdam this summer, to be shown at an exhibition about slavery. The painting hangs in Dokkum town hall, and was painted in 1697. The title is “Mayor Aitsema and an important person breakfasting”, and the exhibition will run in the Rijksmuseum from 25 September this year until 17 January 2021.
What makes the painting especially rare is that it depicts three dark-skinned guards, who were brought into slavery from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia, New Guinea and Papua) by the Dutch East India company. The curator at the Rijksmuseum, who is a specialist in the field of the cultural history of slavery spent all of Monday inspecting the painting in Dokkum.
The exhibition will be the first that the Netherlands’ largest museum has shown on slavery. The painting from Dokkum shows the former Mayor of Dokkum Julius Schelto van Aitzema, who was one of the richest men in the city at the time. Through his relations with the stadhouder, and his function within national politics of the time, Van Aitzema was incredibly influential. It is likely that he thought of himself as a sort of ‘under-king’ of Dokkum, and had a large number of staff, some of which wore official uniforms.
Piet de Haan, from the historical association of Dokkum said: “you don’t often see a painting as outstanding as this. It is so rare to see slaves prominently featured in the frame, and this confuses experts too.”
De Haan thinks that the slaves depicted were taken from India by the Mayor’s second wife; who travelled back to the Netherlands on a Dutch East Indies ship before arriving in Dokkum.
Image via in-dokum.nl