Ceiling paintings (1662) by Nicolaes van Helt Stockade and others in the Trippenhuis, Amsterdam

Decorations in the city palace of the brothers Louys and Hendrick Trip, arms dealers of peace.

The Trippenhuis, located on the Kloveniersburgwal, forms a unique monument due to its many ceiling paintings. In no other seventeenth-century canal house in Amsterdam have this many interior decorations stood the test of time. The building was erected between 1660-1662 to be the residence of the brothers Louis (1605-1684) and Hendrick Trip (1607-1666). The exterior of this city palace calls to mind the former town hall on the Dam Square, but this is not the only aspect of the building to do so. The interior, like that of the town hall, was richly decorated, and the team responsible included a painter who had also been involved in the decorations for the town hall: Nicolaes van Helt Stockade (1614-1669). Of great interest in this regard is an inventory dating to 1684, which informs us about the building’s interior and thus the context in which the ceiling paintings were placed. From this inventory we learn more about the tapestries decorating the walls, paintings and chimney pieces, amongst other things.

What is also remarkable is the fact that Jan Vos (ca. 1610-1667) wrote poems on Van Helt Stockade’s ceiling paintings (ca. 1662) for the Trippenhuis. The poems allow us to understand the meanings of the allegorical figures that are depicted on the preserved ceiling paintings in Hendrick Trip’s reception hall, and also inform us on the themes of now lost scenes that once decorated the salon and bedroom of his brother Louis. From Jan Vos’ poems it appears that the paintings make reference to the Trip brothers’ position as dealers in iron and arms, and argue that it is through war practice that freedom and peace are achieved, allowing for flourishing prosperity and world trade.

In addition to these paintings, decorative ceiling paintings done by anonymous artists have been revealed in various other rooms, showing leaf and flower motifs, birds and also figurative imagery. And that the building has yet more surprises to offer, can be learned from the recent discovery of paintings underneath a stucco ceiling in one of the ground floor hallways.

Up until now, it remained a topic of debate whether or not all ceiling paintings dated to the period of construction. And similarly no answers were available to the question of whether there had been an overarching iconographic program at the base of the paintings, and what the Trip brothers aimed to achieve with the paintings they commissioned. A poem on the Trippenhuis’ 1662 inauguration that was completely unknown until its recent discovery by Tatjana van Run, appears to provide an important clue for finding the answers to these questions. The poem describes the paintings present or in the stage of execution, the recent war that formed the motivation for the decoration, and alludes to similarities between the Trippenhuis and the Trip brothers and Roman mythology. It furthermore confirms the analogy with the town hall on the Dam Square.

Within the project From isolation to coherence, various ceiling paintings in the building have presently undergone material technical research investigation. This has revealed much about the methods by which the paintings were produced. In the case of the allegories by Nicolaes van Helt Stockade in Hendrick Trip’s salon, which were serenaded by Jan Vos, it was possible to determine that Stockade did not work alone when executing these large painted ceiling parts on wood, but rather that he was assisted by various painters. An investigation with infrared reflectography showed, moreover, that there were some deviations from the original plan. This too provides surprising insights into the way in which the decorative program must have been developed.

Collaboration takes place with Henny Brouwer (formerly Technical University Delft and the Central Government Real Estate Agency) who was previously commissioned by the Central Government Real Estate Agency to conduct architectural research in the building, as well as Ruth Jongsma (Bureau voor kleuronderzoek & restauratie), who supervised the recent restoration of the ceiling paintings in the logistical spaces of the Trippenhuis.

An article by Tatjana van Run about the dedicatory poem she recently discovered and its implications for the interpretation of the Trippenhuis’ iconography is forthcoming.

A publication by Tatjana van Run, with Ige Verslype and Margriet van Eikema Hommes and Ruth Jongsma about the production of the ceiling paintings is forthcoming.

The research into the Trippenhuis will be published in Tatjana van Run’s PhD dissertation, with the working title “Hemelen op aarde. De Amsterdamse productie van plafonddecoraties in particuliere woningen tijdens de late Gouden Eeuw” (expected 2017).

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