During a recent tour through Hoorn I took my guests through the Westfries Museum. In this museum there are several portraits from the Dutch Golden Age. The wealth and prosperity of the people portrayed is reflected in the jewellery they wear. See for example the portrait of Brigitta de Groot, delivered in 1659 by the Horn painter Abraham Liedts.
A closer look at the portrait reveals that Brigitta de Groot wears a ring that looks very much like a ring that my grandmother once gave me. Take a look at the two detailed pictures of my ring and Brigitta’s ring! Zoom in on Brigitta’s hand! How is that possible? Is it really the same ring? Is my ring a late copy? Were such rings produced in series? How is this possible?
My curiosity was aroused, not only as a city guide with an interest in the Golden Age, but also as a private person. This calls for further research. I first started in the Westfries Museum itself. An employee told me that used jewellery and accessories are not always the property of the person in the portrait. Sometimes the painter used his own accessories. This was more convenient because it made it easier to work with a ‘stand-in’. The rich lady doesn’t have to pose all the time. I don’t know if that’s the case here. We can only form an opinion about this when we have done further research into the painter and into Brigitta de Groot.
The Painter Abraham Liedts
The portrait painter Abraham Liedts was born in Hoorn in 1604 or 1605, probably the third and youngest son of a Jacob. After the death of his parents, he spent some time in an orphanage. At some point Abraham must have left Hoorn. On 25 April 1636 his orphan master Hendrick ter Beecke was summoned as guardian of Abraham by Maritgen Sybrantsdr, because in 1628 the minor had lent Abraham a sum of 100 guilders, of which only 50 guilders had been repaid. The document in question shows that Abraham was in England at that time and had already left in 1628 or shortly after. Nothing is known about his life in England, but in December 1646 Liedts was back in Hoorn. After his return he will have worked there as a painter. It is not known with whom Liedts was apprenticed.
The work of Liedts
Liedts’ oeuvre consists of twelve self-contained and two probable works. In addition to Liedts, another Hoorn painter was active in that period: Jan Albertsz. Rotius (1624-1666). In a few cases a work by Liedts was wrongly attributed to Rotius. Although Liedts conformed to the usual portrait conventions, his work is very recognizable and it is fairly easy to distinguish it from the more successful Rotius. First of all, his work is more colourful, both in the clothing, in which bright colour accents are placed. Furthermore, the fabric expression of the clothing is convincingly represented in his own way, especially the shiny details.
Brigitta de Groot
In 1659 Liedts delivered the portraits of the Hoorn mayor Meijndert Merens (1622-1681) and his wife Brigitta de Groot (1638-1686). They married on January 14th in 1657. Brigitta de Groot was the daughter of Allard de Groot and Minne van Neck. Father Allard was also a mayor and alderman of Hoorn for some time. Based on her origins and marriage, it seems most likely to me that the jewellery she wears on the portrait was of herself. I have not been able to find any useful information about Brigitta’s life, possessions and jewellery. That trail is a dead end.
My own ring
My own ring, of course, also has a story to tell. I got it from my grandmother sometime around 1990. When she gave me the ring she told me that she got it herself. At that time she could choose between a trip to Rome or the ring. So it became the ring. I don’t know from whom she got the ring. Not even when she got the ring. I know that enamel was used in my ring, but that is a technique that was already used in ancient Egypt and does not help me any further.
What is the relationship between the two rings?
I haven’t been able to answer this question yet. For that I need the help of a specialist. Someone who specialises in jewellery from the Dutch Golden Age and who can judge whether my own ring comes from that time. Or is it a copy? Or just a timeless design made by various goldsmiths?
Help me and win a tour of Hoorn!
Who will help me answer these questions? Do you have a tip or do you know someone who could help me, please contact me. The person who unravels the mystery will receive a full guided tour through Historical Hoorn as a gift from me.