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Adriaan van de Venne's 'Gezicht op de haven van Middelburg', geïdentificeerd als het vertrek van Robert Sidney in 1616

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image of Oud Holland - Journal for Art of the Low Countries

One of the best known paintings in the Rijksmuseum is The Harbour of Aliddelburg by Adriaan van de Venne. More than a topographical view, the representation has not been convincingly explained hitherto. According to D. Franken Dz., who left the painting to the Rijksmuseum in 1898, it shows Elizabeth Stuart's departure in 1613 from Middelburg, the town she visited after her marriage to Frederick v of the Palatinate, which had been solemnized in London that same year. Laurens J. Bol datcd the painting in 1625, interpreting it. as Van de Venne's farewell to Middelburg when he left for The Hague that year. Martin Royalton Kisch maintained that the picture was painted in 1616, basing his assumption on stylistic grounds. A number of elements in the painting facilitate an exact dating and an analysis of the representation. The arms on the flag flyiny from the yacht on the left, with the badge of the Order of the Garter and the escutcheon of Saxony borne by Prince Maurits, narrows down the date to between 1613 and 1618. The ship in the middlc is a cross-rigged warship of the Admiralty of Zeeland, suggesting that the painting records an important stare occasion. The Delegated Council of Zeeland can be recognized on the towing path. The departing person, attired in black and mounted on a horse, is wearing a gold chain and displaying a medal. The figurecs taking leave of this person are members of the nobility; the second of them could be Prince Frederik Hendrik. The English ship in the background must have been the 'Lion', going by the depicted lion. These circumstances point to June 1616, when a ship called 'Lion' lay in Middelburg harbour, Prince Maurits was visiting Middelburg and a gold chain and medal werc presented to Robert Sidney, the departing English governor of Flushing. The painting must accordingly show Sidney leaving Middelburg for the province of Holland. lt was a momentous occasion for Zeeland. The town of Flushing and Fort Rammekens, which had been held by England since 1585 under an agreement to assist the Dutch, were restored to the sovereignty of the province in 1616. Adriaan Valerius commemorated this important episode in Zeeland's history in his Nederlandsche Gedenck-klanck. Pinpointing the date of the painting confirms a number offacts. The ship in the middle must be De'Zeebondl.Placcd at the intersection of the diagonals, it symbolizes the restoration of Zeeland's sovereignty and the English governor's departure from the province. A connection can be made between this topographical rendering of Middelburg and the panorama published in 1616 by Adriaan van de Venne's brother, Jan van de Venne. The nobleman in the foreground was probably Jacques de Malderee, Prince Maurits' representative as the First Lord of the States of Zeeland during this period. Perhaps he commissioned the painting. Not all the details can be accounted for the yacht bearing its distinguished passengers and decorated with the flags of the Southern Netherlands and the city of Antwerp, for instance. Historical research substantiates 1616 as the date of this painting, the year suggested by Martin Royalton Kisch on stylistic grounds.


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