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Long-Awaited Study by S.A.C. Dudok Van Heel Published of Amsterdam Patriciate

In October the first two volumes of Sebastian Dudok van Heel’s long-awaited book on the Amsterdam patriciate became available. This study is illustrated with over a thousand Dutch portraits, many of which are newly identified. The book covers the genealogical and biographical details of all descendants of Claes Heijn Claesznszn (ca. 1400-1800). Claes Heijn Claesznszn is one of Amsterdam’s first known burgomasters and ancestor of virtually all major Amsterdam patrician families.

Book announcement

Van Amsterdamse burgers tot Europese aristocraten: de Heijnen maagschap 1400-1800, hun geschiedenis en hun portretten
S.A.C. Dudok van Heel
Monograph and genealogical study
2 vols., 1134 pp., 1200 illustrations
The Hague (Koninklijk Nederlandsch Genootschap voor Geslacht- en Wapenkunde; Royal Netherlands Society for Genealogy and Heraldry) 2008
ISBN 978-90-805689-5-2

International distribution via or

The book is more than a reference work to trace ancestors or Amsterdam patricians. The huge illustrated dataset is prefaced by six chapters that deal with specific topics of Amsterdam history that Van Heel derived from the dataset. Among the subjects treated are the rise of the ruling Heijnen and Boelen clan before the alteration of 1578; and the position of the Catholic descendants of the clan who after 1578 could no longer fill public office. This group, which appears to be tremendously rich, had not yet been the subject of a thorough study.

Historian Van Heel shows that genealogy is the key discipline for complex historical research into elites and the provenance of art works. Only exhaustive genealogical research can reveal the connections and interdependencies between the Protestant and Catholic branches of a clan and illuminate family ties in a society that was not yet dominated by patrilineal relations. A complete overview of all the descendants of a given individual facilitates the analysis of social rise and fall. A striking result of this study is that it shows most of the offspring to have remained quite wealthy. The clan members were spread over the Netherlands and the rest of northwest Europe, often due to marriage into the nobility. This pattern is expressed in the title of the book: From Amsterdam burghers to European aristocrats.

Outward marks of the process of aristocratization are status symbols such as portraits, coats of arms, houses and country estates. Dudok van Heel focusses in this book on portraits, which form the vast majority of the circa 1200 illustrations. As a consequence, the book provides a  representative sample of Dutch portraiture after 1500. Many of the sitters were newly identified by the author. A large number of the illustrated portraits are privately owned and have not been published before.

The influence of Claes Heijn Claesznszn’s descendants of on Dutch culture was undeniably significant. Their portraits, usually by famous painters, can be seen in museums all over the world. Their canal houses still dominate the Amsterdam townscape, while their country estates help determine the current historico-cultural scenery of the Netherlands. They figure prominently  in public archives, while many of their possessions are still in the family.

this new study by Bas Dudok van Heel will be of keen interest to any student of Amsterdam history, Dutch elite studies and Dutch portraiture.