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Van Arcken flessen 01.jpg

A pair of ‘Van Arcken’ lead glass decanters

Circa 1900, the glass Germany, the silver feet Batavia (Jakarta), marked Van Arcken (V-crown-A)

H. 36 cm

The place to be in Batavia (Jakarta) in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century for exclusive jewellery was Van Arken, which employed dozens of Indonesian goldsmiths. Clemens Gerardus Franciscus van Arcken had opened a shop selling watches and chronometers in Amsterdam in 1851. The business prospered and he would never have moved to the archipelago had he not numbered the King among his clients. William III was known to have an eye for the ladies and proved to be interested not only in Van Arcken’s timepieces but also – indeed most particularly – in his attractive young wife. The solution to this awkward situation was to take ship and leave the Netherlands.

Van Arcken arrived with his wife and children in Batavia (Jakarta) in 1861 and opened his first shop in the colony shortly afterwards. Three years later he sold the business – called Van Arcken & Co – to a Mr. Mayr, who had “Opvolger van Van Arcken” (Successor of Van Arcken) painted on the shop front in large letters. Just six weeks later Van Arcken announced the opening of a new shop at Noordwijk 8 in Batavia (Jakarta) under his own name and advertised himself as “Jeweller to H.M. the King of the Netherlands.” Here he sold watches, chronometers, objects made of gold and silver as well
as diamonds and other gemstones.

The business clearly prospered and in 1880 he moved to larger premises at Rijswijk 11. After his death in 1885, the business was managed with continuing success by his son Clemens Johannes Wilhelmus van Arcken. At the height of its fame, Van Arcken employed over a hundred Indonesian goldsmiths, but the economic depression of the 1930s, followed by the Second World War, the Japanese occupation and the difficult years following the Indonesian Independence, led to the eventual closure of the company in 1958.

Jan Veenendaal, Asian Art and Dutch Taste, Waanders Zwolle 2014, p. 138-140, ill. 212


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