12 October 2017

Family portrait

What did Tasman look like?

This elegant portrait, part of the Rex Nan Kivell Collection of the National Library of Australia,  is generally believed to represent Abel Tasman and his family.

Attributed to Dutch painter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–c.1651), it is dated around 1637 and painted in Amsterdam. Tasman was a captain of the Dutch East India company at the time, bound for Batavia with his wife and daughter.

From Amsterdam archives we know that Tasman married Jannetje Tjaers in 1632, and that he was already a widower. His daughter Claesgen Heyndrix stems from his first marriage. However, on this painting, the resemblance between stephmother and daughter is striking. Is that a coincidence or symbolic? Or could this be another family after all?

The arrangement of the three figures is symbolic. As Tasman motions towards a globe, as if introducing his skills to the viewer, his wife passes an apple to her stepdaughter, representing the conveying of knowledge from maturity to youth.

The web based project View on Golden Bay did a lovely overview of Tasman portraits. 

Mini-college over het Tasman portret (Engels)