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Imaginary Gables: The Visual Culture of Dutch Architecture in the Indies

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

With their bold foray into global exploration and trade, the Dutch, through the East and West India companies, established centralized trading entrepôts and capitals in Batavia on Java and Willemstad on Curaçao. Both of these cities were built following Dutch urban planning principles and were filled with Dutch-styled buildings that reflected the architecture at home, yet were hybridized as they drew on local materials and forms, adapting to local conditions and responding to the ethnic diversity of the populations. In print, however, these cities were pictured as full of Dutch step- and spout-gabled houses, seemingly direct transplants from Amsterdam. This paper considers vernacular buildings in these cities, alongside visual representations of these cities in maps and printed travel accounts, primarily those of Johan Nieuhof, provoking a consideration of the role of print culture in cultivating a visual culture of imaginary Dutch gables for European viewers and readers.

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