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Portrait of Anthony Van Diemen, Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, 1636-1645

Date: 1726
Dimensions:
Overall: 300 x 188 mm, 0.2 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00008301
Place Manufactured:Amsterdam

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    Description
    Anthony van Diemen was Governor General of the Dutch East Indies between 1636 and 1645. His nine year tenure in the post was successful and important for both the expansion of the city of Batavia and the commercial success of the Dutch United East India Company. On 24 November, 1642, Dutchman Abel Tasman, accompanied by fellow explorer and cartographer Frans Visscher discovered the island of Tasmania which they christened 'Van Diemen's Land' after the Governor General who had sent them to explore the 'Great Southern Land' (Australia). In 1643, Tasman also named the westernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand Cape Maria Van Diemen after his patron's wife (together with Maria Island off the east coast of Tasmania).
    SignificanceAnthony van Diemen is important, not just because of his work for the Dutch East India Company but because he was an explorer and has had several places named after him by other explorers: Van Diemen's Land (the original name used by Europeans for the island of Tasmania) and Van Diemen Gulf (between Arnhem Land and Melville Island in northern Australia). This print also provides one of the few visual records available for an incredibly important and unique individual in Dutch (and world) history.
    HistoryAnthony van Diemen (sometimes incorrectly called van Dieman) was born in 1593 in Culemborg, the Netherlands and died on 19 April, 1645 in Batavia, Dutch East Indies. He was the son of Bartholomeus van Diemen and Elisabeth Hoevenaar and was married to Maria van Aelst on 17 January, 1630. His given name has, on occasion, been recorded as Antonio, Anthonie, Anton and Antonius.

    Anthony van Diemen's parents provided their son with a good education in the hope that he would one day, like his father, become Mayor of Culemborg. Instead, Antonio chose, in 1616, to become a merchant and moved to Amsterdam. This was not a wise decision and he was declared bankrupt within a year.

    In order to pay off his debts van Diemen decided to move to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) to obtain work with the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Not surprisingly, the Company was not in the habit of employing bankrupts and so he chose to take on the pseudonym of Thonis Meeusz. Enrolling as a soldier aboard the 800 ton Dutch East Indiaman (the VOC's most commonly used type of vessel during this period) MAURITIUS (built in 1612), they sailed from Texel on 4 January 1618. Sailing via the Brouwer Route, they reached Bantam (near the western end of Java, not far from Batavia) on 22 August, 1619.

    Although Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen had obtained information as to who the mysterious Mr Meeusz really was, he still employed him as a clerk in the VOC civil service. In 1623 he was promoted to Opper-Koopman (chief-merchant or commissary) and again in 1629 to the post of Director General of Commerce; a rank which carried with it a seat on the Council of Batavia. On 8 March, 1631 van Diemen returned to the Netherlands aboard the 550 ton DEVENTER (built about 1629). Due to his position within the VOC he was designated as Admiral of the return fleet and arrived back in Texel in October, 1631.

    His return was short-lived, however, and on 10 December, 1632, van Diemen once again set sail for Batavia from Texel aboard the 550 ton AMSTERDAM (built 1632) - a spiegelretourschip (mirror return ship: a type of transport ship that operated between the Dutch Republic and the settlements and strongholds of the VOC). It was on this voyage that van Diemen discovered Nieuw Amsterdam (New Amsterdam - a small unnamed island in the Indian Ocean which he chose to name after his ship). The AMSTERDAM arrived in Batavia on 21 July, 1633. Van Diemen returned to his post as Director General of Commerce. It was around this time that he was named by Governor General Hendrik Brouwer as his favoured successor.

    On 1 January, 1636 Anthony van Diemen became Governor General. Between December 1636 and June 1637 he led a military expedition consisting of 17 ships and 2,000 men to the Moluccas (the Spice Islands) to subdue an uprising. He would again be forced to return to the region in early 1638, this time at the head of 12 ships and with 1,650 men. This period also saw the beginning of hostilities with the Portuguese on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the conclusion of several treaties, including one with the Sultan of Makassar, and the acquisition of a Dutch monopoly on trade with Japan which had entered a period of self-isolation (in 1636 the Shogun ordered the construction of Dejima Island in Nagasaki Bay where a permanent Dutch trading outpost was established in May 1641).

    Van Diemen's nine years as Governor General were successful and important for both Batavia and the commercial success of the Dutch East India Company. During this time he devoted most of his energy to expanding the power of the VOC in the region.

    In Batavia van Diemen established a Latin school (1642) and two churches as well as overseeing the construction of a hospital and an orphanage. He was also instrumental to the development of a long-lasting legal code (the Statutes of Batavia which were devised by Jan Maetsuyker, a Company legal advisor and future Governor General).

    Van Diemen initiated what have been called the 'final and most ambitious Dutch exploratory ventures of the century'. (Ronald S. Love, Maritime Exploration in the Age of Discovery, 1415-1800 (2006:99).

    On 24 November, 1642 Dutchman Abel Tasman, accompanied by fellow explorer and cartographer Frans Visscher discovered the island of Tasmania which they christened Van Diemen's Land after the Governor General who had sent them to explore the Great Southern Land (Australia). In 1643, Tasman also named the westernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand Cape Maria Van Diemen after his patron's wife (together with Maria Island off the east coast of Tasmania).

    When van Diemen died on 19 April, 1645, his wife returned to The Netherlands, with numerous presents and a large pension provided by the VOC. She married, for a third time, on 6 September, 1646.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Depicting Anthony Van Diemen ('Van Diemen's Land'). Inscription under sight reads "Antonio Van Dieman Gouverneur Generaal Van Nederlands Indien"

    Web title: Portrait of Anthony Van Diemen, Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, 1636-1645

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