History of the Netherlands, AD 1652

Posted on Jan 21, 2016

The leather-bound book in this painting is “Historien der Nederlanden”, published in Amsterdam in the year 1652, having been written by Emanuel van Meteren in 1611. This is not just a history book, the book itself is history, and merely holding it is not only a physical exercise, but also a great delight.

History of the Netherlands in a Delff Frame

History of the Netherlands” 
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 50 cm, 2010. 

Emanuel van Meteren is a key historical figure. His father, Jacob van Meteren, was instrumental in publishing the Tyndale New Testament and the Coverdale Bible in England, which were influential in shaping the English language, especially as the latter led to the King James Version. Emanuel himself not only wrote this comprehensive account of the Dutch and Flemish nation, and its wars and trades, but he was also responsible for introducing Henry Hudson to the directors of the VOC, which resulted in the Dutch company founding New Amsterdam / New York.

This book, then, is interesting for two reasons: it is a very comprehensive account of history, and the person who wrote it himself helped shape history.

Spine of old book

Mid section of the spine.

This picture, showing an enlargement of a section of the spine, is to illustrate my technique for achieving colour. I apply different semi-transparent layers over and on top of each other, thus ‘building up’ the colours. Aditionally I apply colours next to each other, which ensures the painterly feel that results from the brush strokes being visible.

Without these brush strokes, the painting is more likely to become ‘photo realistic, which is what I want to avoid.

Decanter Stop

The glass stop reflects the blue sky 
from the window to the left 

I could have used tea everytime I need liquid in a glass or decanter, but I don’t want to. Although it would probably be convenient, as one can adjust the colour by simply making the tea stronger or less so, I simply don’t think it’s fun. So I like to find some proper liquid to pour into the glass. For this painting I decided on Asbach Uralt. “Uralt” is a German word, meaning “very old” and I chose it for the obvious reason that the word also applies to the book. Incidentally, the brand name, although well known, is really not that old: its history starts in 1892, when Hugo Asbach began to distill his brandy in the quaint little town of Rüdesheim am Rhein.


The frame for this painting was my first from Delf Cadres in Paris, France. I could hardly believe how well the colours matched those of the leather of the book and the Asbach Uralt in the painting.

There is fine description of this book on David Baeckelandt’s website “The Flemish American” which is worth reading: Flemish Fathers of America – Emanuel van Meteren