CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Dutch-Baltic relations in historic perspective

Exhibition: 23 April - 25 April 2008

The National History Museum of Latvia and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Riga take pleasure in announcing the Symposium on Dutch-Baltic relations in historical perspective, scheduled for 23-25 April, 2008.

Announcement (pdf)


Relatively unknown to many people, the Netherlands and the Baltic region had extensive contacts and relations in previous centuries and exerted considerable influence on each other’s economic and political developments. It started in the early Middle Ages, when Frisians from the northern part of the Netherlands joined the Teutonic Knights from Germany in their crusading campaign in the Baltic region to pacify Baltic warrior tribes and spread Christianity in Europe’s last pagan stronghold. In the later Middle Ages, many cities in the Netherlands and the Baltic region were linked more peacefully in the famous Hanseatic League, which laid the foundations for the rise of capitalism and the merchant class in Northern Europe. In the 17th century, Dutch merchants dominated trade and shipping between the Baltic region and the rest of Europe, with Amsterdam functioning as a pan-European distribution centre. This so-called “Mother Trade” underpinned the prosperity and economic development in Holland’s “Golden Age”. The extensive commercial contacts in those times led to many other contacts and exchanges in the fields of culture, architecture, education and religion, the legacy of which can still be seen today in many buildings, churches, paintings, etc. in the region.

If one takes a look at how relations develop in modern times, one notices a great similarity in objectives and working style between both regions. This is no surprise, as throughout the centuries the Baltic traders and the Dutch co-operated closely and cleverly. The close historical links between the Netherlands and Latvia have been extensively dealt with in the book “Beyond Traditional Borders: eight centuries of Latvian-Dutch relations”, produced earlier by the Embassy on the occasion of the visit of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to Latvia in May 2006. This publication should be considered the beginning of an analysis of a fascinating history shared by two befriended regions: many topics deserve to be examined more thoroughly by researchers. The planned symposium in 2008 is a new step in unveiling the fascinating, but largely unknown legacy of Dutch-Baltic connections.


The symposium will take place in Riga at the National History Museum of Latvia. The dates are tentatively fixed for April 23rd – 25th 2008. It will be organized by the National History Museum of Latvia, with support of the Netherlands Embassy in Riga. The Steering Committee consists of:
• Dr. Arnis Radins, Director of the National History Museum of Latvia in Riga;
Prof. Ojars Sparitis, Latvian Academy of Arts;
• Dr. Elita Grosmane, Director of the Institute of Art History;
• Drs J.C.A. Schokkenbroek, Curator of the Netherlands Maritime Museum in Amsterdam;
• Dr. Hanno Brandt, Director of Hansa Study Centre of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
This committee assists and advises the museum in the organization. The symposium will coincide with an exhibition on Dutch-Baltic relations with collections of the Museum of History of Riga and Navigation in Riga, the Veenkoloniaal Museum in Veendam (Netherlands) and others, to be held in the Mentzendorff Museum

Target group and objectives

The symposium is meant for (art) historians, archivists, librarians, museum officials, researchers and all interested private persons. It is organized to exchange knowledge, views and perspectives and to promote research on the extensive and multi-faceted ties which have existed between the Netherlands and the Baltic Area from the Middle Ages up to the present day. Central themes will be: mutual influences in the field of art, architecture, commercial and maritime links, political, diplomatic, religious and academic contacts. The symposium is part of a large-scale project by the Netherlands Embassy to broaden the knowledge about relations between the Netherlands and the Baltic countries. Earlier activities were the book as well as a travelling exhibition about Latvian-Dutch historical ties and different aspects of the Netherlands, past and present.


The main contributor for financial part is the Directie der Oostersche Handel en Reederijen.
Further support is guaranteed by the Government of the Netherlands.

For any questions you may contact Santa Grinberga, tel. +371 67326147.