A selection of archival records: Dutch thrift

The Arts in Leiden

On 8 November phase I of the The Arts in Leiden 1475-1575 project was completed and celebrated with a symposium at Museum De Lakenhal. During the afternoon various experts spoke about archival documents from the period 1475-1555, which have been published online in RKDexcerpts (see the domain called Leidse Kunstambachten tot 1575; including summaries in English) as part of the project. To give an impression of the kind of archival material that has been entered into the database, the RKD will showcase a different document from the archives every three weeks. In this second installment we learn about a clash between an Antwerp sculptor and a church warden from Katwijk.

Dutch thrift

When Ghys Bruyn, who was church master in the town of Katwijk near Leiden, commissioned a tabernacle from the Antwerp sculptor Master Jaquet, he may have been secretly thinking 'Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves'. The Antwerp master would not have been entertained by Bruyn's interpretation of the adage. This much is certain.

On 26 January 1520, Jacquet complained to the aldermen's court in Leiden that the contract he had signed with the Katwijk church master stipulated that, should the tabernacle require him to do extra work ('over werck'), the additional hours would need to be paid on top of the sum agreed. However, Mr Bruyn was now stonewalling him. What was he thinking? That he could get away with such behaviour, because Master Jaquet was sufficiently far away in Antwerp?

We learn that the Dutchman had seriously misjudged the situation. The court rules that Ghys Bruyn must either comply with the terms of the contract or pay Master Jaquet one hundred Rhenish guilders, with legal costs on top. Besides the church master, three other men are summoned 'to give testimony in the aforesaid case': the sculptor Jan van Dam, Cornelis inden Hoeren and Phillips Oliviersz. If the men refuse to appear as witnesses, each will have to pay the sum of fifty Rhenish guilders. Church master Bruyn from Katwijk will have sorely regretted his mistake.

  • View the archival record in RKDexerpts here