Category Archives: History

New publication: Branding Jan III Sobieski and his letters

“Every civilized Dutchman who has studied modern history, even if only in general terms, knows the brave Jan Sobieski.” These words come from a book review from 1832, discussing the recent publication of the letters of Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), in Dutch translation. The review illustrates how famous the former Polish king was in the Northern Netherlands, even more than a century after his death.

I have previously written about Sobieski’s Dutch reception in the late seventeenth century, prior to his acclaimed victory at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683. In a new publication, entitled ‘A Hero and His History. The Branding of Jan III Sobieski and His Letters in the Northern Netherlands during the Early Nineteenth Century’, I explore a related topic, venturing out of the early modern period. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Europe saw the appearance of several editions of Sobieski’s correspondence. Three Dutch editions were published in The Hague. My publiation analyses the ways in which Sobieski and his letters were branded in these Dutch editions, particularly in the books’ extensive front matter. It argues that, while the Dutch branding was directly inspired by earlier French and Polish versions, the motives behind these different editions varied greatly, depending on their contexts. Of key importance were events related to Polish patriotism, such as the November Uprising. A number of reviews furthermore make clear how the brands in the Dutch editions were received.

My research has resulted in a book chapter, which has now appeared in H. van den Braber, J. Dera, J. Joosten and M. Steenmeijer (eds.), Branding Books Across the Ages. Strategies and Key Concepts in Literary Branding (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2021). You can find the Open Access publication on the publisher’s website.

Mooie recensies Bezem & Kruis

Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vorig najaar verschenen vertaling van een Poolse studie van letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, krijgt mooie kritieken van onder meer de Volkskrant en het NRC Handelsblad. In de Volkskrant geeft Olaf Tempelman het boek 4 sterren. Hij typeert het als ‘een indrukwekkende studie naar de Hollandse poetszucht’ en ‘een verkapte liefdesverklaring aan een klein land aan de Noordzee.’ In het NRC is Bart Funnekotter nog positiever: 5 ballen. ‘Dit is geen lollig plaatjesboek met wat tekstjes over die malle, poetsende Hollanders,’ zo stelt hij, ‘maar een kritische, diepgravende duiding van een nationale cultuur.’ De recensies zijn respectievelijk hier en hier te lezen.

De echte vliegende Hollander: Een Nederlandse admiraal in Gdańsk

Voor de website Maritiem Portal schreef ik een blog getiteld De echte vliegende Hollander: Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam in gedichten uit 17e-eeuws Gdańsk. Ik bespreek daarin de wijze waarop de Nederlandse admiraal Van Wassenaer Obdam (1610-1665), die in eigen land een twijfelachtige reputatie genoot, besproken wordt in Latijnse gedichten uit Gdańsk/Danzig, de Baltische havenstad die eeuwenlang bij het Pools-Litouwse Gemenebest hoorde.

Abraham Evertsz. van Westerveld, Portret van Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, ca. 1660.

Van Wassenaer Obdam maakte zich meermaals verdienstelijk voor Gdańsk, hetgeen tot uiting komt in meerdere lofdichten die ik gevonden heb tijdens archiefonderzoek ter plaatse. De dichters benadrukken de banden tussen de admiraal (en de Nederlandse Republiek als geheel) en hun stad, alsook de spectaculaire dood van de vlootvoogd, die in 1665 omkwam tijdens de Slag bij Lowestoft. De gedichten vormen een van de vele culturele sporen van de ‘moedernegotie’ en getuigen van de verwevenheid van de belangen van de Republiek en Gdańsk in de zeventiende eeuw.

New publication: Hosschius praises Sarbievius

Santa gave me a particularly lovely Christmas present this year: a freshly published peer-reviewed publication! It is entitled ‘Better than Pindar? The Ode by Sidronius Hosschius to Sarbievius and Its Two Versions’ and is published in Terminus, a journal for Neolatin studies, in an issue devoted to “the Sarmatian (i.e. Polish) Horace”, Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius (Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, 1595–1640). My paper contributes to our knowledge of the international fame Sarbievius’s poetry enjoyed in the Early Modern age.

Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius

The main aim of the paper is to present and analyse an ode by the Flemish Jesuit Sidronius Hosschius (Sidronius [or Syderoen] de Hossche, 1596–1653) to Sarbievius. This eulogy has often been viewed as a masterpiece. In addition, it has two distinct versions: one published in a collection of poems in honour of Sarbievius (the so-called Epicitharisma), first printed in an edition of his oeuvre in 1632, and one in the collective volume of Hosschius’s own works issued posthumously in 1656. Both versions were first published by the famous Plantin-Moretus printing house in Antwerp. I have previously written two other papers, also dealing with poems to Sarbievius, composed by the Frenchman Gilbertus Joninus and the Fleming Jacobus Wallius.

Sidronius Hosschius

The paper consists of three sections. The first one focuses on the relationship between Hosschius and Sarbievius and on the Nachleben of Hosschius’s ode. The second section offers a general analysis of the poem. Tracing the contents of Hosschius’s ode and its sources of inspiration, it argues that Hor. Carm. IV 2 is central to the poem’s understanding. The third section discusses the differences between the two versions, in an attempt to disclose why the poem was altered and how the changes influence the ode’s meaning. A number of larger changes affect the poem’s central message: while in the earlier version Sarbievius is said to outdo Pindar and even Horace, the later version is more cautious. All it does is admit that Sarbievius could perhaps equal Pindar and Orpheus.

Hosschius’s eulogy and the reception of Sarbievius through his composition have two different traditions: 1) the one found in most editions of Sarbievius’s works, where the poem basically proclaims him to be the best Latin lyricist of all time, thereby tying in with other laudatory contributions and promoting both Sarbievius’s oeuvre and the editions themselves, and 2) the one added to Hosschius’s own poetry, where the adjusted version—which contains more references to ancient literature and which could be called more personal, as well as, perhaps, more realistic—became a fan favourite.

In both instances, however, the reinterpretation of the psychological effect of poetry—the translation of furor poeticus from the author to the reader—and the re-evaluation of the concept of aemulatio could be the main reason why Hosschius’s ode was so highly valued.

Bezem & Kruis: Vertaling Poolse cultuurstudie over Nederland gepubliceerd

Deze maand verscheen bij de Primavera Pers in Leiden het boek Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vertaling van Miotła i krzyż: Kultura sprzątania w dawnej Holandii, albo historia pewnej obsesji. Het boek is geschreven door de Poolse letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, die is verbonden aan de Uniwersytet Jagielloński in Krakau.

Het rijk geïllustreerde werk vormt een studie van de Hollandse schoonmaak- cultuur door de eeuwen heen. Aan de hand van talrijke voorbeelden laat Oczko zien hoe het schoonmaken vanaf de zeventiende eeuw een belangrijke rol ging spelen in de kunst en literatuur van de Noordelijke Nederlanden, met name Holland. In binnen- en buitenland begon men schoonmaken en properheid te associëren met de Nederlandse cultuur en identiteit. Deze ‘obsessie’ met schoonmaken duurde voort tot in de twintigste eeuw.

Het boek is hier te bestellen.


Familiar Foreigners: Paper at the Huizinga PhD Conference

On 13 October, I presented a paper at the yearly Huizinga conference for PhD candidates. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held entirely online. My paper was entitled Familiar Foreigners. Poles through Dutch Eyes in the Seventeenth Century.

Pieter Serwouters, Frontispiece for ‘Respublica, Sive Status Regni Poloniae…’, 1627.

I discussed work in progress on the different ways in which the Dutch during the seventeenth century imagined the Polish people. Firstly, I analysed a variety of Dutch visualisations of ‘Poles’ and ‘Polishness’, ranging from engravings to gable stones and from paintings to ‘Polish’ stage costumes. While such representations were partly based on reality, a comparison with Dutch portraits of real Poles shows how these could break the mould. For whereas a Pole’s appearance was typically associated with the exoticism of the orient, and hardly differed from his Hungarian, Russian, or even Turkish counterparts, depictions of individuals could deviate from this pattern, as Poles navigated between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ guises.

Secondly, I used several poems, travel accounts, and other sources to reconstruct the ways in which Dutch authors imagined Polish characters and customs. Typical Poles were identified as Sarmatians, a bellicose, brutal, and barbaric people, whose backward nature was shaped by the cold climate and severe living conditions of their homeland. However, these negative notions are challenged by several other sources, mainly Latin poems by Dutch authors in honour of their Polish friends. These compositions reveal that, despite the stereotypes, Dutch poets maintained and celebrated warm relations with Polish individuals in a variety of contexts, from scholarship to warfare to religion. Together, the visual and textual source material demonstrates that, through seventeenth-century Dutch eyes, Poles were familiar foreigners.

The Polish Hercules: Romeyn de Hooghe and John III Sobieski

I am happy to announce a new peer-reviewed paper, entitled ‘De Poolse Hercules. Romeyn de Hooghe en de Nederlandse receptie van Jan III Sobieski voorafgaand aan het Ontzet van Wenen’ (The Polish Hercules. Romeyn de Hooghe and the Dutch reception of John III Sobieski before the Battle of Vienna), published in Neerlandica Wratislaviensia.

Romeyn de Hooghe, Jan Sobieski at the Battle of Khotyn, 1674.

The paper explores the Dutch perceptions of the Polish king John III Sobieski before his famous victory over the Turks at the 1683 Battle of Vienna. Sobieski’s military triumphs and rise to power in the 1670s elicited various favourable responses from the Dutch Republic, most notably several prints by the etcher and engraver Romeyn de Hooghe. His prints laid the foundation for Sobieski’s image as a great European and Christian military leader, but also a specifically Polish and Catholic hero. Sobieski’s war efforts and the image formed of him by De Hooghe cohered with the negative Dutch perceptions of the Turks, as well as with Poland-Lithuania’s reputation as a bulwark of Christendom. The countless glorifying prints, poems and other European responses to Sobieski after his victory at Vienna were in many cases inspired by the image of the Polish monarch created in the Northern Netherlands during the 1670s.

The paper is in Dutch. An English version will be included in my dissertation.

Diplomats as Poets, Poets as Diplomats

I am very excited to have published a new peer-reviewed article, in Legatio: The Journal for Renaissance and Early Modern Diplomatic Studies, entitled ‘Diplomats as Poets, Poets as Diplomats: Poetic Gifts and Literary Reflections on the Dutch Mediations between Poland-Lithuania and Sweden in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century’.

Abraham Booth, [Negotiations between the Dutch, Poles and Swedes in 1627], 1632

The article examines two Dutch diplomatic missions, in 1627-28 and 1635, by which the United Provinces intervened in a Polish-Swedish armed conflict in Prussia. The focus is on ‘diplomatic poetics’: the ways in which literature functioned within diplomatic practice, and how that practice (or the ‘diplomatic moment’) was in turn envisioned in literature. The Polish-Swedish conflict was of great interest to the United Provinces, and was elaborately discussed in various Dutch media, as well as in the correspondences of merchants and politicians. The Dutch embassies to Polish territories themselves, meanwhile, inspired a number of literary works, published mostly in the Republic, but also in for example Danzig and Königsberg. These sources demonstrate how early modern literary and diplomatic practices in Europe overlapped and influenced each other. Firstly, German, French and Dutch poems by Johannes Plavius, Simon van Beaumont and Joost van den Vondel illustrate the blurring of the lines between the realms of diplomacy and literature. Poems could function as diplomatic gifts, enabling both personal, intellectual communication and the widespread transmission of political messages. Moreover, Latin and German plays by Johannes Narssius and Simon Dach, and more importantly Latin poems by Simon van Beaumont and Caspar Barlaeus, as well as an illustrated Dutch account of the first mission by Abraham Booth, reveal that the Dutch envoys featured in literary narratives as both wise peace bringers and travelling poets, and their missions to Poland as both arduous ordeals and epic adventures. Much like poetic gifts, these literary reflections on ‘the diplomatic moment’ had public diplomatic agency, simultaneously voicing political opinions and crafting artistic images of the diplomats themselves.

At the Warsaw Institute of History

From 2 to 15 December, I am a guest researcher at The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, which is located at the city’s Old Town Market Square. Besides doing research in Warsaw’s archives and libraries, I gave a presentation for members of the institute, entitled Polski Herkules: Północno-niderlandzka recepcja Jana III Sobieskiego w późnym siedemnastym wieku (The Polish Hercules: The reception of John III Sobieski in the Northern Netherlands during the late seventeenth century). I discussed the international importance of a series of prints made for the Polish king by the Dutch engraver Romeyn de Hooghe after Sobieski’s election in 1674, as well as the main characteristics of the wide range of poems and prints produced in the Northern Netherlands following his victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The comments and questions I received were extremely helpful! My research stay is funded by an Erasmus+ scholarship.

Peripheral Polish Prussia?

On 15 November, I gave a paper presentation at Radboud University’s international conference Is Europe Inclusive? Together with prof. dr. Marguérite Corporaal, I organised a panel on conceptions of European centres and peripheries throughout the ages. In my paper, entitled Peripheral Polish Prussia? Contrasting Dutch Perceptions of Prussia and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth during the seventeenth century, I argued that notions of centres and peripheries are ever changing and dependent on the observer. I used the case of Prussia, which during the nineteenth century was framed as the centre of Germanness, but which nowadays no longer exists as a geographic entity.

In my presentation, I posed the question how Prussia was perceived before its rise to power as an independent state, when during the seventeenth century it was under Polish rule. Royal Prussia, with Danzig as its most important port, was an integral part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1772, while Ducal Prussia was a vassal of the Polish king from 1525 until 1660. The observers I chose, the Dutch, had strong economic and cultural ties with Prussia. Did the Dutch view Prussia, which was culturally similar to the Low Countries and of great economic importance to the Dutch Republic, as a centre, or rather as a periphery and a mere province within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth?

Using a variety of sources, I made clear that the Dutch had differing opinions about the region: while some sources preferred Prussia to Poland proper, saying that Prussian houses and grain were superior to Poland’s, other sources paint a different picture. Abraham Booth, who wrote the first Dutch eyewitness account of Poland-Lithuania, printed in Amsterdam in 1632, wrote an unflattering report of his journey through both Prussia and Poland. Negative elements were, for example, vast forests, cruel Polish soldiers, bad roads and shabby accommodations. This presentation is hardly surprising, as Booth wrote his account during a diplomatic mission to Prussia, in which the Dutch mediated between the Swedes and Poles after the Swedes had invaded Polish territory. The Dutch were officially allied with the Swedes, however. On the other hand, Poland and Prussia always feature favourably in the works of Joost van den Vondel, the most prominent Dutch poet of the seventeenth century. Vondel saw Prussia as belonging to Poland, and repeatedly praised the Commonwealth for its fertility and the role it played as a bulwark of Christendom. This no doubt had to do with Vondel’s Catholic sympathies. In this way, I hope to have shown that what constitutes a centre or a periphery is not fixed and easily measurable, but rather depends on the historical context and background of the observer.