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Portrait of Hendrik Brouwer (c. 1581-1642), Governor-General of the former Dutch East-Indies
The Netherlands, 2nd half 17th century


Titled ‘Hendrik Brouwer Gouvr. Generl. van India’ and annotated at the reverse 1640 Holl. Ausstellung Lenzburg 1934, Katalog
Oil on panel, H. 33 x W. 24.6 cm

Hendrik Brouwer was born in circa 1581, somewhere in the Spanish Netherlands. He moved to Amsterdam at a young age, where he served six years as an apprentice to Leonard van Raey, an Amsterdam merchant, for whom he made journeys to Spain, Portugal and possibly the Dutch East Indies. In 1610 Brouwer sailed to the East Indies as commander of a fleet of three ships. On his initiative, he explored the Southern route, from Cape of Good Hope to the East, turning North to Java almost as far as the west coast of Australia. This route was so much quicker that the Heeren XVII, the VOC directors in the Netherlands, decided that this would be the route to Batavia (Jakarta) from then on.


In Batavia, he didn’t get on very well with Governor-General Pieter Both, who sent him as Opperhoofd or Chief-Merchant to the VOC trade post in Japan, Hirado, in 1613. Brouwer made a court journey to Edo to pay respect to the Shogun and bring him the customary gifts such as telescopes, guns, globes and books on European science and shipbuilding. In 1613 Brouwer established the first Dutch trade post in Siam.


He returned to Amsterdam in 1617, where he became one of the directors of the VOC. In 1632 he accepted, for three years, the post of Governor-General in Batavia. In 1641 Brouwer was back in Amsterdam but apparently out of favour
with the Directors of the VOC, as he was now appointed Governor-General of the WIC, the Dutch West India Company. The position was not bad, if he had not been commanded to sail out to conquer the Spanish silver mines in Peru. During the magnanimous but unsuccessful attempt, Brouwer died in 1642 in front of the coast of Chili at Puerto Inglés.