My name is Stefanie van Gemert. I am a teaching assistant and research student at the UCL Dutch Department, where I teach Dutch culture and history to students from University College London. Knowing of the hidden treasures at the UCL Art Museum and UCL Special Collections, I thought it would be fun to invite the Treasures from the East participants to UCL. I also thought these visits could inspire participants when creating art works for their final exhibition at the Wallace Collection.
On 17 May, Sophie and I welcomed Aaina Women’s Group and some of the Community Ambassadors to the UCL Art Museum for a workshop on the history of the Dutch East India Company and the seventeenth-century Netherlands. We had a close-up look at a range of etchings from the UCL Art Museum – displayed for the day by curator Andrea Fredericksen. These etchings were a starting point for discussion and reflection. Questions that came up were (for example): why would someone sign up to leave on a Dutch East India Company ship? And: who would come along and would return on the ships? Besides that, we got to know some very curious animals!
UCL Special Collections is part of the UCL Library, and deals with rare, old books and manuscripts. Tabitha Tuckett and Gill Furlong from Special Collections were at the workshop to help out when the participants were handling the fragile books that Gill and Tabitha brought along. We saw an official letter from 1674 with old hand writing and the seal of the Dutch Stadholder William III (who later became King of England). There was also a beautiful book in Hebrew: a Humash, the first five books of the Jewish Torah. This book showed the diversity of Amsterdam at the time, which was a real migrants’ town in the seventeenth century. Additionally, we looked at an exciting and beautiful multilingual map depicting Asia, from a rare book by Gotfried Hensel from 1741, showing the diversity of languages across this vast continent;
In the afternoon we had lunch at the Wallace Collection and discussed the objects further over tea and sandwiches. The Aaina Women and the Ambassadors then linked the UCL objects from the morning session to the Dutch paintings in the East Galleries. We recognised some objects from Rembrandt’s curiosity cabinet and wondered where the pigments in the colourful dresses of Ter Borgh came from
Thank you for your feedback and thoughts during this fun workshop!
Here are some photo’s from the day;
PS There is some information on lapis lazuli – the precious stone that was used in blue paint – here, on the National Gallery website. Lapis lazuli was mined in what now is called Afghanistan and Iraq.
The workshop programme ‘Treasures from the East at UCL Art Museum’ is made possible with the help of the UCL Step Out fund