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Pair of silver salt or sugar containers in the shape of “Moors” Adriaen Nicolaesz de Grebber, Delft, 1640



Pair of silver salt or sugar containers in the shape of “Moors” Adriaen Nicolaesz de Grebber, Delft, 1640

From a historical perspective, the presentation of West Africans in South American attire is very interesting. These splendid silver figurines are in fact symbolic of Dutch colonialism. The war between the Netherlands and Spain/Portugal in the seventeenth century was not just restricted to Europe, but was fought in the colonies as well. The powers fought over the sugar plantations of Brazil, and over Black enslaved in West Africa. Where the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) sought to increase Dutch power and territory in Asia, the WIC (the Dutch West India Company), founded in 1621, strove to do the same in the Atlantic region. It appears that the WIC’s office in Delft was only established in August 1623, in which year Adriaen de Grebber fashioned a pair of silver “Moors” that now form part of the collection of Museum Prinsenhof in Delft (note I).  

The WIC initially managed to drive the Portuguese from the Brazilian sugar plantations in 1630 and following years, but the Portuguese recaptured all lost plantations in 1654. This meant that between 1630 and 1654, the WIC was able to directly ship sugar to the Netherlands. From the early seventeenth century to 1630, when Brazil’s sugar plantations were in Portuguese hands, the normal order of business was for sugar to be shipped to the port of Antwerp and distributed throughout Europe from there. Though it was an expensive substance, sugar was added to warm exotic drinks, such as coffee, tea and chocolate – themselves also imported products.

Antwerp developed into an important transhipment port, superseding even Venice and Genoa. By the end of the sixteenth century, 85% of all sugar was imported via Antwerp. Although the Portuguese originally relied on the labour of countless native South Americans to handle the back-breaking work on the plantations, population decline led them to import more than a million enslaved from Angola. Another 25,000 enslaved were imported from West Africa between 1636 and 1645 during the Dutch ownership of the plantations.

An instrumental figure in these activities was John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen (in Dutch: Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen), who had been sent to Brazil in 1636 by the Nineteen Gentlemen, the board of the WIC, in order to leverage his military skills to the benefit of the Dutch trading company.

John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen was born in Dillenburg in 1604. His father, Count John VII, was cousin to William of Orange, and his mother Margaret of Holstein-Sonderburg was related to the Danish court: she was a granddaughter of King Christian III. John Maurice was an influential man who contributed to the arts and sciences by collecting exotic curiosities. He returned to his home – the Mauritshuis (literally “House of Maurice”) – in The Hague in 1644, where he decorated a number of rooms with items collected during his tenure as governor of Brazil, known as Braziliana.
He was also responsible for transporting members of the indigenous Tupi people from Brazil to the Netherlands. These “savages” were made to dance before Dutch audiences in the Mauritshuis.

Paintings of native South Americans and Africans, exotic plants and animals and Brazilian landscapes by artists like Frans Post and Albert Eckhout (who personally visited Brazil) inspired other European artists and artisans, in whose works we find arbitrary combinations of races, landscapes and exotic objects.

For example, the painting Amerika-Paraiba en Brasil (1666) by Jan van Kessel who spent his entire life in his native Flanders, shows an indigenous African wearing South-American clothing as part of an allegory. John Maurice gifted objects and curiosities to many European courts – Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, Dresden and St Petersburg, among others. Many years later, somewhere after 1707, the Dresden court jeweller Gottfried Döring crafted an elegant piece representing Venus borne by two native Africans in South American clothing (see Barock in Dresden, cat. no. 553).

Adriaen Nicolaesz de Grebber

Born in 1576 or 1577, baptism date unknown. Son of Nicolaes Adriaensz de Grebber and Maria Andries van Coolhem. Buried 15-12-1658 in Nieuwe Kerk as Adriaen Grebber residing at Vlamingstraet (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 40, f. 22). Adriaen de Grebber, goldsmith of Delft, age 44, and Cathalina Noirot van Brugge, age 40, residing at Blauwburgwal, registered their intention to marry in Amsterdam on 13-03-1621 (DTB Amsterdam, inv. 425, f. 237) On 20-03-1621, the court of Delft registered the wedding of Adriaen Nicolaesz de Grebber, goldsmith, a young man of Delft residing in the Hippolytusbuurt quarter, and Catharina Noirot, a young lady of Brugge, residing in Amsterdam (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 124, f. 64v.).


Family
On 28-02-1617, Adriaen de Grebber witnessed the baptism of Nicolaes, son of the painter Pieter Anthonisz van Bronckhorst, and Jacomijntgen de Grebber, his sister. (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 7, f. 4v.)
On 18-09-1619, Adriaen Claesz de Grebber witnessed the baptism of Janneken, daughter of Josuwa Oliviers and Aeltge Pieters. (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 7, f. 35)
On 04-04-1621, Adriaen de Grebber witnessed the baptism of Pieter, son of Josuwa Olijviers and Aeltge Pieters. (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 7, f. 54v.)
On 16-11-1622, Adriaen de Grebber witnessed the baptism of Janneke, daughter of Josuwa Olijviersz and Aeltge Pieters. (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 7, f. 74)
On 08-04-1624, Adriaen de Grebber witnessed the baptism of Jannetgen, daughter of Josuwa Olijviersz and Aeltge Pieters. (DTB Delft, Arch.no. 14, inv. 7, f. 89v.)
On 01-01-1609, Adriaen de Grebber, goldsmith, acted as witness in a notarial declaration by Simon Mes concerning gold and silver spoons, which was executed at the home of 420 Nicolaes de Grebber, goldsmith, on Voorstraat. (ONA Delft, Notary Adriaen Rijshouck, inv. 1761, f. 3)
On 24-09-1616, Adriaen Claesz de Grebber, goldsmith, assigned to his brother Jacob the half of his father’s legacy due to him. (ONA Delft, inv. 277, f. 212.)

Silversmith
In 1590, Adriaen de Grebber was registered as an apprentice (Guild, f. 28). On 14-05-1608 he achieved the rank of master in the guild (Guild, f. 36v). His name and hallmark were inscribed on the guild’s record plaque, Plaque 1, hallmark monogram ADG in a shield.
Assay master in 1620, 1622, 1626, 1629, 1630, 1632, 1636, 1642, 1645, 1648, 1650, 1653 and 1655. Dean in 1625, 1628, 1631, 1635, 1641, 1644 and 1647.
In 1621 the guild received an apprenticeship fee of fl. 2:10:— for the apprentice Arent Andriesz Krijch. (Guild, f. 46, Reekenboeck, I, f. 33v.)
In 1659 the guild received a sum of fl. 1:10:— for the ante obitum of Adriaen de Grebber. (Reekenboeck, I, f. 127)
A number of inaccuracies have been identified in the existing literature concerning Adriaen Claesz de Grebber. He has been confused with Adriaen Claesz de Grebber, son of silversmith Claes Pietersz de Grebber (Haarlem 1590 - Leiden 1650), who became a citizen of Leiden in 1629. This Claes Pietersz de Grebber was the younger brother of the painter Frans Pietersz de Grebber from Haarlem. On 03-03-1661, goldsmith and engraver Adriaen de Grebber was buried in Haarlem. This individual worked in Leiden, as did his father. (See the biography of Frans Pietersz de Grebber by Irene van Thiel-Stroman in Biesboer et al. 2006, p. 165, n. 3; and especially Biesboer 2018b, pp. 55-71)

Exhibition:
Christian Cannuyter ed., Specerijkelijk, de specerijenroutes, A.S.L.K. Galerij, Brussels, 27 March –14 June 1992, cat. no. 98, image

Literature and comparative literature:
A.C. Beeling, Dutch Silver 1600-1813, Leeuwarden, 1983, p. 7, image;
A.C. Beeling, Nederlands Zilver 1600-1813, Vol III, Leeuwarden, 1986, p. 86, image;
Verslag Vereniging Rembrandt 2004;
Pieter. Biesboer, De Delftse zilversmid Adriaen Claesz de Grebber (1576/77–1658), in De Stavelij, Lochem, 2018, p. 67-68;
Pieter Biesboer and Jacob J. Roosjen, Delfts Zilver, Zwolle, 2020, p. 216-217 and 420-421, image;
Jacob J. Roosjen, working title, De zilversmeden Grebber en hun figuren, SRI®146.

Notes:
I Inv.no. PDZb 107A-B, h. 20.5 cm 814 grams. Purchased with support of Vereniging Rembrandt in 2002. See Verslag Rembrandt 2004, p. 11-12.
II Around 1643, John Maurice of Nassau, Governor General of Brazil, commissioned Albert Eckhout to paint a portrait of an envoy from King Garcia IV of Kongo and two of his servants bearing gifts. These paintings were subsequently gifted to King Frederick III of Denmark in 1654 and are now found in the Royal Museum in Copenhagen. In 1661, Rembrandt painted two Moors; canvas measuring 77.8 x 64.6cm., Het Mauritshuis, The Hague. Earlier, circa 1645, Frans Hals painted a portrait of a young Moor in a Family Portrait, canvas measuring 202 x 285 cm, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid. Seymour Slive, Frans Hals, London/New York 2014, Pl. 174, detail fig. 171.
III After the death of her husband, she had become the owner of the three Delftware factories, including the factory known as De Kam. Wijsenbeek 1987, p. 217. See Marion S. van Aken-Fehmers et al., Delfts Aardewerk. Geschiedenis van een nationaal product, II, Zwolle 2001, p. 159. Upon her death, an inventory of her estate was drawn up for sale. ONA Delft, Notary Frans Boogert, inv. 2625, no. 46, f. 396-476, 28 October 1725. The estate contained a large number of silver objects, including square candleholders, a bowl and lid, trays, spoons and forks.

Works
1605-10         IMAGE, figurine of a birdcatcher: engraved signature ADG, base added (probably). Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv. WA2013.1.160: h. 29.4 cm.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, p. 70; SRI®139

1605-10         IMAGE, figurine of a birdcatcher: engraved signature ADG, J. Kugel, Paris, 2019: h. 33.5 cm.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, p. 70 GOBLET HOLDER (2x), Ceres and Bacchus: Private Collection, Paris; J. Kugel, Paris; Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv. WA2013.1.160: h. 19.5 cm.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, pp. 59-60; SRI®136

1617 E*         GOBLET HOLDER (2x), Ceres and Bacchus: Private Collection, Paris; J. Kugel, Paris; Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv. WA2013.1.160: h. 19.5 cm.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, pp. 59-60; SRI®136

1623 L*         SALT HOLDERS (2x), “Moortjes”: 1806, Private Collection, described in estate inventory 1896, then through inheritance within family and by auction; SA, 4 Nov. 2002, lot 371; Museum Prinsenhof, Delft; inv.no. PDZ 107A-B, h. 20.5 cm.; 814 gr.; Lit: Verslag Rembrandt 2004, pp. 11-12; Biesboer 2018, pp. 63-64; SRI®142

1623 L*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), with 1795 redemption mark for Leiden: Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp, 1983; J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam, 1984, in auction SG, 16 May 1995, lot 4; Private Collection,: 17.5 and 18.9 cm; 562 gr.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, pp. 60-65; SRI®147

1624         WEDDING MEDALLION, gold-plated, Paulus van Beresteyn and Volckera Nicolai (Knobbert), signature: A.A. des Tombe, The Hague, gift 1881: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv.no. NG- NM-5286: diam. 5.4 cm., 50.13 gr.; Lit: Bemolt 1981, no. 21; Biesboer 2018, p. 58

1624         WEDDING MEDALLION, Paulus van Beresteynb and Volckera Nicolai (Knobbert), signature: J.M. van Gelder-Nijhoff, gift 1885 to Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv.no. NG-VG-1-666: diam. 5.3 cm., 46.59 gr.; Lit: Bemolt 1981, no. 29

1628 R*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), numbered I and III, with 1795 redemption mark for Delft: Lord Londesborough, 1860; FM, Nov. 1912, lot 1160; CA, 1 Dec. 1988, lot 691; Private Collection,: h. 19.5 and 20 cm.; Lit: Lord Londesborough Coll. 1860, pl XV, p. 14; SRI®156

1628 R*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x): presumably forming a set with the pair of Lord Londesborough as numbers II and III; Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv.no. WA2013.1.211.1 and 2: h. 19.5 and 20.3.: SRI®140

1628 R*         NAUTILUS GOBLET: Museums of Art and History, Brussels. H. 24 cm.; Lit: Frederiks IV 1961, no. 22; Cat. Delft 1956, no. 20; Taks 1993, p. 309

1628  R*         NAUTILUS GOBLET: Het Prinsenhof, Delft, inv.no. PDZ 4: l. 23.8 cm.; Lit: Frederiks IV 1961, no. 21; Cat. Delft 1956, no. 17; Taks 1993, p. 309

1629  S         SALT HOLDER, as figurine of a fisherwoman: Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv.no. WA2013.1.226: h. 12.7 cm.; SRI®138

1635  B*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x): Private Collection, Netherlands; SRI®155

1636  C*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x): Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp, 1983; J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam, 1983, in auction SG, 16 May, 1995, lot 26; Private Collection,: h. 18 and 18.5 cm., weight 522 gr.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, pp. 60-65; SRI®147

1636 C*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), with 1795 redemption mark for Rotterdam: Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, inv. WA2013.1.213. 1 and WA2013.1.213.2; SRI®141

1639  F*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), gold plating added later: Nagell, Stuttgart, 6-7 October 2010, lot 28; Private Collection,: h. 18 and 18.5 cm.; SRI®139

1640  G*         SALT HOLDERS (2x), “Moortjes”, with 1795 redemption mark for Middelburg: D. Katz, Dieren, 1982, P. Hoogendijk, Baarn, 1983; A.C. Beeling, Leeuwarden, 1983-86, J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam 1986, in auction SG, 16 May 1995, lot 44, SA, 27 Nov. 1995, lot 89, Private Collection: h. 22 cm., weight. 785 gr.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, p. 67-68; SRI®146

1640  G*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), with 1795 redemption mark for Middelburg: P. Hoogendijk, Baarn, 1989; J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam 1989, in auction SG, 16 May 1995, lot 74, SG, 15 Nov. 1995, lot 238; Private Collection.: h. 17.5 and 18.5 cm., weight. 550 gr.; Lit: Biesboer 2018, p. 63; SRI®143

1641  H*     GRAPE PICKERS (2x): SL, 31 July 1931, lot 64; Private Collection,; h. 18 and 18.5 cm.; SRI®145

1645 M*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), with inscription Maria van Santen 1645: record of Oct. 1958; H.S. Wellby, London, 1962; Coll. M. Wellby until 2012; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Wellby Bequest, WA2013.1.212.1 and 2: h. 18 and 18.9 cm.; Lit: London 1962, no. 321; Biesboer 2018, p. 64; SRI®137

1646 N*         GRAPE PICKERS (2x), met tax mark of 1807: Private Collection, Netherlands; SRI®144

provenance:
D. Katz, Dieren, 1982;
P. Hoogendijk, Baarn, 1983;
A.C. Beeling, Leeuwarden, 1983-86;
J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam 1986, in auction at Sotheby’s Geneva, 16 Mar 1995, lot 44;
Sotheby’s Amsterdam, 27 Nov. 1995, lot 89;
Private collection, the Netherlands, 1995.

Literature:
A.C. Beeling, Dutch Silver 1600-1813, Leeuwarden, 1983, p. 7, afgebeeld;
A.C. Beeling, Nederlands Zilver 1600-1813, Vol III, Leeuwarden, 1986, p. 86, afgebeeld;
Verslag Vereniging Rembrandt 2004;
Pieter. Biesboer, De Delftse zilversmid Adriaen Claesz de Gebber (1576/77–1658), in De Stavelij, Lochem, 2018, p. 67-68;
Pieter Biesboer en Jacob J. Roosjen, Delfts Zilver, Zwolle, 2020, p. 216-217 en 420-421, afgebeeld;
Jacob J. Roosjen, werktitel, De zilversmeden Grebber en hun figuren, SRI®146.





 

Pair of silver salt or sugar containers in the shape of “Moors” Adriaen Nicolaesz de Grebber, Delft, 1640
Price on request
Period
1640
Material
silver
Weight
785 gr
Signature
Marked on the base between the feet, also with 1795 Middelburg redemption mark
Dimensions
22 cm

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