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Amsterdam -- The Sun and Soul of the Entire World 

First state of Claes Janszoon Visscher's important early view of Amsterdam, celebrating the city's ascent to the trading capital of the World at beginning of the 17th century.

Taken from the River IJ, the view shows Amsterdam as a bustling center of World trade, in a marvelous blend of topographical realism and allegorical splendor, symbolizing the prosperity and broad worldly reach of the city.

The view bears the names Harmanus Allardi Coster and Nicolaus Johannis Visscher (Claes Janszoon Visscher).  Coster is Hermann Allartz Coster (1572 to 1652), a printer and publisher, also known as Allard, who added "Coster" to his name in 1603, after he became sexton of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

To create his view, Visscher expanded on an earlier 2-sheet view of Amsterdam by Pieter Bast (died circa 1605). Bast's Gezicht op Amsterdam, vanuit het IJ Amstelredam had been published a little more than ten years earlier and was taken from a similar position looking across the River IJ.  As described by Anat Gamboa in Symbolic Landscapes:

Visscher actually started out with two copper plates that were engraved . . . by Pieter Bast.  Later on, Visscher reprocessed the plates, using the old vista and adding newer Amsterdam buildings.

As noted by Keyes:

In its amplitude and the sheer audacity of the presentation, this engraving is indisputably one of Bast's most significant creations. It is as much a portrait of the harbour of Amsterdam as of the city itself and underscores the unique importance of maritime trade as the principal source of the city's wealth and power.

With its distinctive orientation Bast not only initiated the series of representations of Amsterdam as seen from the IJ, but also established the standard for an entire genre of Dutch maritime painting.

To the original 2 Bast plates, Visscher would add two additional plates, nearly doubling the width of the view, In the sky, Visscher replaced the simple utilitarian title and simple coats of arms, with a more embellished allegorical coat of arms of Amsterdam in the center, flanked by two coat of arms held aloft by angels with trumpets, and two elaborate allegorical title cartouches.  Along the bottom is a remarkable scene, built around the Maid of Amsterdam.

The Maid of Amsterdam Receiving Gifts

At the bottom center of the view is an image of the Maid of Amsterdam, perched upon a stage supported by wooden piles, in the same manner as the construction of the city.  At her feet is arrayed a group of secular and sacred objects.  The image presents an elaborate allegorical scene of the Maid receiving gifts from representatives of all parts of Europe and the known the World; represented by a collection of traders, farmers, and merchants, each with distinctive goods and wares of their region, gathered on the city's waterfront, prepared to approach the Maid with their offerings.

Among the more fascinating elements is the inclusion to her left of exotic peoples and animals, symbolizing the diverse trading relationships already fostered by the city by the beginning of the 17th Century.  For example, at the bottom right there are images of camels, reindeer, and perhaps a monkey or two, along with costumed traders from various parts of Africa, the Middle East, and East Indies.

The text accompanying the Rijksmuseum copy of the view describes Amsterdam as the new Athens, "the sun and soul not only of Europe, and parts of Africa  . .  but of the entire World" . . .  "the light-shining and heart-warming gleam of her evident lust, spreads itself so powerfully across the entire earth."

Claes Jansz. Visscher

As noted in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art:

Claes Jansz. Visscher has long been acknowledged as a pivotal figure in the early development of seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes. Soon after setting up shop on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam in 1611, Visscher began issuing a remarkable number of landscape prints that offered realistic views of the local Dutch countryside, quickly establishing himself as the leading publisher of Dutch landscape prints in Amsterdam.   

States of the View -- Hand Written Corrections From the Publisher

One interesting feature is that this example of the view, like the example in the Rijksmuseum includes corrections in the two titles, in the publisher's hand.  This would seem to be the first state, as the example illustrated in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art appears to include corrections to the engraving:

  • In the first title, the word Republic (Reibub) has been misspelled, with a "p" handwritten over the B
  • In the first title, the word Amstelredamensis has been misspelled, with the missing "s" added by hand
  • In the second title, the "i" in Amstelodami has been added

The present example would seem to be the first state of the view, as the example illustrated in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art appears to include corrections to the engraving:


We locate three surviving examples illustrated online:

In the catalog entry describing the example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the selling dealer reported that there are 9 surviving examples.

Condition Description
Four sheets of 17th century laid paper, joined as one. Rightmost sheet with watermark of a dragon(?). Second from the right sheet backed with thin tissue. Facsimile reinstatement to the lower-left of the Maid of Amsterdam, and to the right of the camel's head at the left. Few other small areas of restoration.
Symbolic Landscapes (2009) at p.260. Alexandra Onuf, Envisioning Netherlandish Unity: Claes Visscher’s 1612 Copies of the Small Landscape Prints: Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art Volume 3, Issue 1 (Winter 2011) Hollstein I, p. 168, 8; Keyes, Pieter Bast 8 and p. 19.