Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age |


We are the elite of the Golden Age (in the seventeenth century). Trade is flourishing, money is pouring in and we want to keep it that way. In our cities at home we don't want anything to disrupt our industriousness so we keep the peace using a social safety net. But at sea and in our colonies, we are not afraid to use force.


The whole of Europe is subservient to monarchs and the nobility, but here in Holland, it is we citizens that have the power. Or at least the better citizens. We have had ourselves immortalised in impressive group portraits. Four of the Amsterdammers among us have been specifically singled out in the exhibition because they typify us perfectly.

Frans Banninck Cocq
Frans Banninck Cocq
Pieter Hasselaer
Pieter Hasselaer
Frans Banninck Cocq
Isaac Commelin
Elisabeth Reael
Elisabeth Reael

Nice to meet you:


I am Pieter Hasselaer, a merchant. My father, a rich brewer, is on the board of directors for the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) and on the Amsterdam city council. I want to go even further. So I'll have to do some networking.

I can do that in the civic guards, which is the citizens’ army that maintains order in the city. The higher your rank, the greater your influence on city life - and vice versa. I will be promoted from lieutenant to captain and eventually become colonel - the highest possible rank.


Another network is the marriage market. We, the happy few, all marry amongst ourselves. Marriages are fusions of wealth and interests - we can grow to love our spouses.

Mine is a good catch: Aeghje Hooft, the daughter of a merchant who has been mayor as many as twelve times. We also like to keep politics in the family. So I'm in. Power here I come!


After the death of my father-in-law I become mayor eight times. So I have in fact made it. What's the secret of my success? Good stock, clever networking, marrying above my station and earning a lot of money.

The very height of status is to get one's face on a group portrait, because that shows you belong. The height of even more status? Your face on two group portraits. Like mine: go and take a look.


Thirty colossal group portraits from the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum collections tell the story of the Dutch citizens and their cities. Come and see them and discover the similarities with the mentality of the Netherlands today.

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