WILLEM TROOST (1812-1893)
Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast
Signed lower right
Oil on canvas, 45 x 60 cm
After his return to Holland in 1871, Cornelis Johannes Marius Nagtglas (1814 -1897), the last Dutch Governor of the Dutch forts on the coast of Guinea, commissioned Willem Troost to paint Elmina Castle. Since Troost never left Holland he must have done this on the basis of an illustration or photograph of the fort, seen from the land side. Nagtglas’ granddaughter gave the painting to the historian Silvia de Groot who was an authority on the history of the Marrons, escaped slaves living in small villages in the jungle of Surinam. Her best-known study is the travel story of a visit by four Granmans, Marron chiefs, to Ghana, Togo, Dahomey and Nigeria: “Granmans from Surinam in Africa, four Marron chiefs visit the lands of their predecessors”.
died in 2009 she left the painting to her
friend and pupil, Ellen Ombre, the Surinam
born writer who gave the painting on loan
to the exhibition “Slavernij Verbeeld”
(slavery represented) at the University of
Amsterdam in 2013.
Nagtglas, 37 years old, was sent to Elmina in 1851 as an assistant. Six years later he was appointed Governor of Dutch Guinea. In 1862 he returned to Holland but in 1869 he was sent to Elmina again as Governor. By then the Dutch had all but lost the competition with the English in Guinea. Half a year before the actual handing over of Elmina to the English on April 6th 1872, Nagtglas had returned to Holland, a disillusioned man. The painting he had made must have been a memory of past times and a period in his life when under his authority 275 years of Dutch presence on the Gold Coast of Africa came to an end. In 1637 Prince Maurits of Nassau, the Governor-General for the West India Company of Dutch Brazil had taken Elmina from the Portuguese.
For 155 years Elmina had been the most important fort for the Portuguese on the coast of Guinea and it became so for the Dutch for 275 years. It had been a valuable possession where gold, ivory, hides, Aframomum melegueta (a kind of ginger) and wood for the European markets and slaves for the American markets had been profitable trade goods.