Albert Eckhout, African Woman and Child, 1641, oil on canvas, National Museum of Denmark.
20 June 2019

The Subject(s) of Slavery: The Paintings of Dirk Valkenburg and Albert Eckhout as Sites of Remembrance

EVENT | 20 June 2019 | 19:30 - 22:00 | Tropentheater, Amsterdam

This public event explores how art and material culture can act as sites of remembrance of and engagement with the slavery and colonial past. This event is the prelude to the international workshop Art, Material Culture and the Dutch Empire: Dirk Valkenburg and His Worlds. Rebecca Parker Brienen will deliver the keynote lecture, followed by a moderated interview conversation with a panel of scholars, curators and artists.

The program is a collaboration between the Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC), Society of Arts of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and the Members Association of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). This program was initiated by artist Willem de Rooij, member of the Society of Arts of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, who currently works towards the first publication on the life and work of Dirk Valkenburg.

Image: Albert Eckhout, African Woman and Child, 1641, oil on canvas, National Museum of Denmark.


This lecture will focus on the colonial paintings of Dutch artists Albert Eckhout and Dirk Valkenburg. Their images of enslaved peoples allow us to bridge the past and the present, offering contemporary viewers with opportunities for both remembrance and critical engagement. Eckhout and Valkenburg were each associated with the Dutch overseas expansion into the Americas: Eckhout lived in Dutch Brazil from 1636-1644 and Valkenburg was in Surinam from 1706-1708. Their remarkable works of art, which include Eckhout’s African Woman and Child and Valkenburg’s Ritual Slave Party on a Sugar Plantation in Surinam, are a significant record of the European engagement with enslaved peoples—both African and Indigenous—combining both stereotypical understandings along with historical information. A fresh examination of these works of art, which looks beyond the painted image, may provide new insights into lives of these now anonymous individuals.


19:30  Welcome

20:00  Opening

  • Introduction by Willem de Rooij, visual artist
  • Keynote lecture by Rebecca Parker Brienen, Oklahoma State University
  • Panel discussion (confirmed panel members)
    • Lea van der Vinde (Mauritshuis)
    • Karwan Fatah-Black (Leiden University)
    • Justin Brown (Yale University)
    • Willem de Rooij (visual artist)
    • Wayne Modest (RCMC)
  • Questions from the audience

22:00  End of program


Rebecca Parker Brienen is the Vennerberg Chair of Art and Head of the Department of Art, Graphic Design, and Art History at Oklahoma State University. She is an art historian who specializes in 17th century Dutch art, internationalism, and the history of museums and collecting. Dr. Brienen has done extensive research on the images produced as a result of the European colonization of Mexico, Brazil, and Africa. In particular, she has studied in depth the works of art created by the Dutch artists Albert Eckhout, Frans Post, and Dirk Valkenburg in Brazil, Surinam, and Europe. Her publications include the 2010 catalogue raisonné Albert Eckhout: Visões do Paraíso Selvagemi (Capivara Press), which is a revised and expanded edition of her 2006 book Visions of Savage Paradise: Albert Eckhout, Court Painter in Colonial Dutch Brazil (Amsterdam University Press).


Dirk Valkenburg, Ritual Slave Party on a Sugar Plantation in Surinam, 1706-1708, oil on canvas, National Museum of Denmark.
Wood sample keroewing, former collection: KIT Tropical Products.
Sugar Plantation Waterlant in Suriname, 1698 - 1718, Dirk Valkenburg (1675 - 1721). Collection Amsterdam Museum.
School collection of product samples from the Colonial Institute, 1900-1936. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen.
Sluis op de plantage Palmeniribo te Suriname, 1708, Dirk Valkenburg (1675 - 1721). Collection Rijksmuseum.
Frans Post, Brazilian Landscape with a House under Construction, c. 1655-1660, oil on panel, Mauritshuis, The Hague.