New light on the Trippenhuis: Theme issue Oud Holland

A revealing study (in Dutch) by Tatjana van Run has just been published in Oud Holland. Her 50-page article analyses the powerful political message of the Trippenhuis as the most important building in seventeenth-century Amsterdam.

The Trippenhuis, a double dwelling designed by the architect Justus Vinckboons at the Kloveniersburgwal 29 in Amsterdam, was built for the Dordrecht-born arms dealers Louys (1605-1684) and Hendrick Trip (1607-1666). The brothers each lived in one side of the house with their families. The building was completed in 1662 and cost no less than 250.000 guilders, financed by profits derived from the family's iron foundry in Sweden. The floor plans are in mirror image and the same quarters on each side of the building feature many similar painted and sculpted decorations; for example, ceilings with mythological representations, birds, hunters or decorative floral wreaths.

Left: Oud Holland - Journal for Art of the Low Countries, 2019-1, volume 132
Right: 'Groote Sael' Hendrick Trip (currently Rembrandt Room), north side, Amsterdam, Trippenhuis. Photo: W. Ruigrok.

Due to recent restauration projects, the decorations in the house can now be analysed in their entirety. What message did the brothers wish to convey with the architecture of the house and its complex decoration program? No archival documents regarding the commission are known today, yet a previously neglected poem by glazier and poet Salomon Oudart from 1662, celebrating the inauguration of the Trippenhuis, sheds new light upon the matter. A systematic study of this poem, combined with insights from earlier and recent (technical) research into the building and its decorations, enables new interpretations of its significance on three different levels: the national, local and private.

The poem by Oudart indicates that the Trippenhuis was modelled directly on the Amsterdam town hall at Dam Square (inaugurated in 1655). Both buildings were designed as temples to honour recent peace treaties. The exterior of the Trippenhuis, but also the selected artists and the iconographical program inside the house, support the idea that the Trip brothers explicitly competed with the commissioners of the town hall. The ceiling paintings with birds in the corridors of the Trippenhuis, for instance, represent the fable of the raven with the borrowed feathers, which most probably referred to the burgomasters accused of spending excessive amounts of public money on building projects.

The ceiling paintings in the house were created as an ensemble in concurrent fashion immediately after the completion of the exterior. A cohesive decoration program on this scale was highly unique for residential buildings at the time. In that respect, the Trippenhuis elicits comparison with the most important buildings in the Republic, in particular the Amsterdam town hall. Its aim was to literally and figuratively overshadow all other buildings in the city, and served to announce to Amsterdam’s elite that it could no longer ignore the Trip family from Dordrecht.

Anonymous, The fable of the raven with the borrowed feathers, ca. 1662, ceiling painting, 125 x 745 cm, Amsterdam, Trippenhuis, 'Gaeldery' Hendrick Trip. Photo: R. Jongsma.