The Newsletter 71 Summer 2015

Of Spices & Botany, Sanskrit & Bollywood: Four centuries of Indo-Dutch connection

Rituparna Roy

“What other people has written its history in its art?” wrote the nineteenthcentury critic-politician Theophile Thore, about the Dutch. Quoting him, Simon Schama, in his Introduction to The Embarrassment of Riches, points out that “the quality of social document inherent in much of Dutch art does indeed make it an irresistible source for the cultural historian.” If one has to tap that source, then the best place to visit is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a veritable treasure-trove, housing more than two thousand Dutch masterpieces from the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age. Some are more celebrated than others, making it into the popular museum ‘Guidebook’, whilst there are several that are neither acclaimed nor popular, yet which remain arresting nevertheless. Hendrik van Schuylenburg’s 1665 painting The Trading Post of the Dutch East India Company in Hooghly, Bengal, is one such example.