Erlend P.J.M. de Groot

Winner Dissertation Prize 2001

The atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem. The collected world of an 17th century amateur

Supervisors: Prof. dr B.H. Aikema, Prof. dr G. Schilder
Nomination: University of Nijmegen, Faculty of Arts

Report by the selection committee

The study of art collections in itself gives an interesting view on the value patterns of those who compiled them. It is therefore worthwhile to study the collection of the 17th century Roman Catholic Amsterdam lawyer Van der Hem: it shows what a well-to-do person of that faith and education found worth while buying. More interesting still it becomes when the objects themselves refer to the worldview of that time, in the most literal sense of the word, that is the Atlas Blaeu. Van der Hem on his own initiative ordered pictures to be made of all places that figure in the Atlas. In this way he concretised his worldview in a literal and figurative way. This collection, the combination of the printed Atlas and the added original drawings, is unique and has a special interest from the art historical and culture historical point of view as well. By meticulous investigation into the archives the author has succeeded in tracing the social status of the family of the patron and the social impact of the collection: who visited the house and therefore shared this unique experience? What consequences did being able to show off have for the status of the collector? It has not often been possible to describe the social and cultural functioning of a unique and world wide iconographical collection as well as mr De Groot has done.