Art at Auction in 17th Century Amsterdam

By John Michael Montias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Remonstrants and Counter-
Remonstrants

By July 1610, the dispute between the more orthodox Calvinists, known as Gomarists, and the followers of the more liberal theologian Jacob Arminius had been festering for at least 15 years. In that month, 44 Reformed preachers submitted a Remonstrance to the States of Holland, with the support and participation of the Advocate of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. The Remonstrance’s assertion of the authority of the State over the Church and its reaffirmation of Arminius’s theses on predestination incensed the partisans of Gomarus, who soon became known as Counter-Remonstrants. For the next few years, many towns of Holland, including Rotterdam and The Hague, were ruled by regents who were Remonstrants themselves or were sympathetic to their cause. Many of these regents, called libertines (libertijnen), were more concerned with the peace, order, and prosperity of the towns they ruled than with religious controversy. By contrast, Amsterdam was governed by a Council (Raad or Vroedschap) with a majority of Counter-Remonstrants, including the opportunists who supported them. The Counter-Remonstrant camp in Amsterdam was led by Burgomaster Reynier Pauw. Two broad generalizations about the people who sided with one or the other of these two factions are often invoked. First, that merchants engaged in foreign trade, who were in favor of the truce in the war with Spain signed in 1609, generally supported the Remonstrant faction or some sort of Erasmus-like position tolerant of dissent. Second, that many of the poor craftsmen in the textile and leather trades, who had immigrated from the Southern Netherlands, tended to be fiery Counter-Remonstrants. It was said to be among these people, collectively referred to as “the rabble” (het graauw) by their opponents, that crowds of activists who heckled Remonstrant preachers, attacked Remonstrant conventicles, and eventually sacked the homes of prominent Remonstrants were recruited. By early 1617, as Jonathan Israel recently capsuled the political situation, “there was an unmistakable note of rebellion in the air.”221 On 30 January of that year seventeen members of the Remonstrant party petitioned to have a Remonstrant preacher appointed in Amsterdam, where only Counter-Remonstrants had hitherto been allowed to preach. One of these was Abraham Anthonisz. (later in life named Recht), dealer in fats and candlemaker (1588-1664),222 remembered in art history for having commissioned Rembrandt to paint the portrait of the famous Remonstrant preacher Johannes Uyttenbogaert in 1633. He was married to Baefje Willems, a niece of Rem Egbertsz. Bisschop, also a prominent Remonstrant, and the brother of the Remon-

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