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A pair of Chinese export porcelain plates with the Luls family coat-of-arms


Qing-dynasty, Qianlong period, circa 1765

Diam. 23 cm

These two armorial plates in the Meissen-style are decorated with the head of a black man against a yellow background, crowned and flanked by two bears. Often, black men were used in arms as a sign of international trade and worldliness and not slave-trade; however, these particular arms are an exception. The first to use this coat-of-arms was Gerard Luls, alderman in 1679 and burgomaster in 1687 of Wijk bij Duurstede, a small town in the south of the Province of Utrecht. In 1700 he moved to Curaçao where he acted as commissioner of the slave trade and in 1704 as Governor of Curaçao and owner of the plantation ‘Vriendenwijk’. During his time as commissioner, six ships arrived with a total of 2858 enslaved that survived the journey. Luls supervised selection, branding with a scorching hot stamp, transport to the plantations of the WIC and the sale of these enslaved. In 1711 he died in Curaçao.

His son, Mattheus (c. 1688-1767) also was burgomaster of Wijk bij Duurstede from 1712 untill 1716 and held several other important posts in the City and States of Utrecht. Mattheus probably commissioned this service of which only an ewer, an oblong dish, a saucer dish (illustrated in Jochem Kroes, Chinese armorial porcelain for the Dutch market, Zwolle, 2007, p.281), and a coffee cup and saucer (previously sold by us, see Uit Verre Streken, December 2013, no. 30) are known. Mattheus had eight children, including Willem Adriaan who made a career in colonial South-East Asia and Jan who headed for the Caribbean. Following his grandfather’s footsteps in Curaçao, he too owned several plantations, including ‘Vriendenwijk’, proving that the family had owned this plantation continuously.

Plates like these show the social, political and economic entanglement of the Netherlands and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Very evident in Amsterdam, but also in smaller towns such as Wijk bij Duurstede.

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