THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE EBONY AND PEN-ENGRAVED MARRIAGE CABINET OF GOVERNOR-GENERAL DIEDERIK DURVEN (1676-1740) OF THE FORMER DUTCH EAST-INDIES
Sri Lanka or Jakarta (Batavia), circa 1724
The two-door cabinet on four cabriole legs, overall with exuberant and detailed inlays of ebony and pen-engraved ivory in a boulle-style, the two doors with flowers and continuing vines along the borders, the centre of each door identically decorated with the Durven coat-of-arms of two doves over a snake, below a compass rose, beneath which a man and a woman, standing inside a bower of a chapel with a cockerel on top, holding a heart between a crown between them, the sides of the cabinet likewise decorated with flowers and vines, within a central panel on top two angels holding a crown over a heart pierced by two arrows above two figures under a tree and two houses/chapels each with a figure in the doorway, the sculpted ebonized hood with centrally the coat-of-arms of the Netherlands in coromandel wood.
H. 204 x W. 145 x D. 55 cm
Cabinets with compass-roses that are to some extend inlaid with ebony and ivory are known, but the extensive decoration in this cabinet is unheard off.
These coat-of-arms belong to Diederik Durven (Delft 1676 - 1740), first married to Jacoba van Breda (Amsterdam 1683 – Batavia before 1724). Later he married again with Anna Catherina de Roo (Batavia 1699 – Delft 1741), with whom he had a daughter, Ida Anna, born on 13 December 1725. The present cupboard was probably made for Diederik’s marriage to Anna Catherina in 1725.
Diederik Durven studied Law in Leiden and became a solicitor for the VOC Chamber in Delft in 1704. On the fourth of January 1706 Diederik sailed to Indonesia aboard the “Grimmesteyn,” arriving in Jakarta (Batavia) in August. There Durven worked fourteen years as a lawyer in “de Raad van Justitie” and was appointed extraordinary member of the Council of India in 1720. After the death of Governor-general Mattheus de Haan in 1729, Durven was elected his successor. However, by surpassing a few older members of the Council with his election, Durven made enemies amongst them.
In addition to this bad start for Durven, the Directors in Amsterdam felt that they were losing control over Jakarta (Batavia), as if they had any direct control over a country on the other side of the world which took six months to reach anyway. However, during Durven’s the drop in moral standards and rise of corruption in Jakarta (Batavia) reached an all-time high. In order to clarify that Jakarta (Batavia) and VOC there still had to abide rules and policies created in Amsterdam and that corruption was not tolerated in any way, a scapegoat was needed for the malfunctioning of the colonial government. On the 9th of October 1731 a stunning decision was made that shook the Netherlands and the claimed overseas territories; Governor-general Diederik Durven, his director-general Cornelis Hasselaar, two members of the Council of India, Hendrick van Baarle and Wouter Hendrickz. were recalled to the Netherlands.
They had to return to the motherland immediately “zonder gagie of eenig commando” (without payment or rank) and became the chief offenders for corruption and decline of the VOC in the East and their dismissal was to be a clear warning. It didn’t make much difference in Jakarta (Batavia) though, as a country so far away was continuously hard to govern from Europe.
Back in the Netherlands Diederik took legal action against the VOC. The case dragged on till his death on February 26, 1740. Anna Catherina died a year later, on February 28, 1741, leaving a huge estate, but there is no mention of the cupboard. Possibly the daughter Ida Anna had received the cupboard earlier, before Anna Catherina’s death.
It has long been assumed that Diederik Durven is governor Duff depicted on Chine de commande porcelain, but there is no evidence for this.