A LARGE JACKWOOD 'V.O.C.' CHEST WITH BRASS MOUNTS
Dutch East-Indies, probably India, 1753
The kapour wood chest of rectangular form, with unusual double locks, brass mounts handles and heart-shape ornamented lock-plate and initials PVB, engraved with flowers and vines against hammered background, with key, stamped with V.O.C.-monogram, the letter G and dated 1753, the inside of the lid with inscription N 2, C.V.A.
H. 71 x W. 168 x D. 71 cm
This large chest, with the unusual double locks, is said to have been part of the possesions of the retired Cape of Good Hope Governor General Hendrik Swellengrebel (1700-1760). He left Cape Town on board the Liefde in 1751 to settle in the Netherlands. The journal of this voyage, kept by his two daughters, was published in 1996 (Marijke Barend-van Haeften, Op reis met de VOC, de openhartige dagboeken van de zusters Lemmens en Swellengrebel, Zutphen 1996). A similar chest is illustrated on p. 128 of this publication. As Admiral of the return-fleet and Extraordinary Member of the Council of the Dutch Indies, Swellengrebel would have had the privilege to ship up to 18 similar large chests to the Netherlands. This corresponds with the 1717 resolution regarding the number and sizes of chests allowed each employee according to rank (Jan Veenendaal, Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India during the Dutch period, p. 77-89, Delft 1985).
The present chest has remained in the Swellengrebel family for seven generations, left by descent to the last owner E.J.G. Swellegrebel (born 17-10-1929), the Governor’s great-great-great-great-grandson. Since Hendrik Swellengrebel sailed for the Netherlands in 1751, the date of 1753 branded in the present chest could indicate that this chest was ordered and sent after Hendrik had arrived in the Netherlands. Where the letter G stands for is not clear. Although Groningen, Stad en Lande, did have a chamber for the West Indies Company since 1622, in spite of all it’s attempts Groningen never had a chamber for the East Indies Company, the VOC, because it could not subscribe enough money. Besides, Hendrik Swellengrebel did not have any connection with Groningen, only with Kaap de Goede Hoop where he was born.