Margrieta van Varick's East Indian goods


While we do not know for certain what Van Varick's silver objects looked like, examples of extant contemporary East Indian, VOC, and New York works enable us to identify motifs that may have originated in the East: stamped and applied leaf banding, New York style porringer handles, Mughal-inspired caster piercings, and the form of Van Dyck's unusual mustard pot. In the United States, these motifs rarely appear on objects found outside of New York State. We might conclude that the motifs originally came to New York through immigrants who had been in the Dutch East Indies, of whom Van Varick was but one. There were certainly other Dutch New Yorkers, as well as English and other nationals, who had lived in, traded with, or had connections to the East, and who could have imported exotic items such as East Indian silver to the colony.20 While Van Varick's cache of imported goods and her relationship to a silversmith may not be common in the history of colonial New York, it is probably not unique: other New Yorkers had connections to the East, and this likely created routes of stylistic transmission from East to West in colonial American decorative arts that we are just beginning to understand.

I am grateful to Titus Eliëns, Walter B. Denny, and Kevin Stayton for their advice on this article and support of my research, and Stefano Carboni for his support of my research. I also am indebted to Patricia E. Kane and John Stuart Gordon for making the Yale University Art Gallery's Van Dyck silver available to me for study, and to the exhibition for display; and to Kiki Smit and Cassidy Luitjen for their translations of key Dutch literature on this topic.

1 For a transcription and history of the inventory, see Deborah Krohn, Peter Miller, and Marybeth De Filippis, Dutch New York between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick (Yale University Press, New Haven, for Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York, 2009), Appendix 1. The original is in the Probate Court Records, Inventories and Accounts, 1666-1822, New York State Archives, Albany. Although authors as diverse as Esther Singleton, Roderic Blackburn, Ruth Piwonka, and Mary Black have referred to Van Varick's inventory in their work, their treatment has been limited to simply listing her goods. See Esther Singleton, Dutch and Flemish Furniture (McClure, Phillips, New York, 1907), pp. 176, 260, 241-246; Roderic H. Blackburn and Ruth Piwonka, Remembrance of Patria: Dutch Arts and Culture in Colonial America, 1609-1776 (Publishing Center for Cultural Resources for the Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, N.Y., 1988), p. 39; and Mary Black, "Early Colonial Painting of the New York Province," in Blackburn and Piwonka, Remembrance of Patria, p. 214.  2 Marybeth De Filippis, "Margarita van Varick's East Indian Goods: Design Influence for 17th- and Early 18th-Century Goods," master's thesis, Bard Graduate Center for the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York, 2006. In addition to the eleven East Indian silver articles, the inventory lists three baskets, three cabinets, two wooden gilt-lacquered trays, fourteen pictures, eight flowerpots, and one basket quilt all described as East Indian.  3 The inventory lists four living children: Johanna (1682-after 1706), Marinus (c. 1686-before c. 1707), Rudolphus (1690-c. 1711), and Cornelia (c. 1692-1734). See Marybeth De Filippis and Margriet de Roever, "Chronology," in Krohn, Miller, and De Filippis, Dutch New York, pp. xx-xxi.  4 See Ian M. G. Quimby, "The Question of Authorship," in American Silver at Winterthur (Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Del., 1995), pp. 13-18.  5 See S. M. Voskuil-Groenewegen, J. H. J. Leeuwrik, and Titus M. Eliëns, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Zwolle, The Hague, 1999), pp. 12-13, 15, and 64-65.  6 Ibid., pp. 16-19.  7 Ibid., pp. 15-18. 8 Van Varick's guardian uncle is recorded in Malacca as early as 1671, and it is likely she was there with him at that time. See Balthasar Bort, Report of Governor Balthasar Bort on Malacca, 1678, trans. M. J. Bremmer (Royal Asiatic Society, Singapore, 1927), p. 101. We do not know when she married Van Duins, although he is recorded as still married to his first wife in December 1666. See Marybeth De Filippis, "Traces of a Life: Margrieta van Varick in the East," in Krohn, Miller, and De Filippis, Dutch New York, pp. 42, 46-47.  9 While documentation recording Margrieta coming or going from Batavia has not yet been uncovered, the settlement was the seat of government for the VOC and a major stop for all Dutch ships traveling to and from the East, thus it is likely that she also stopped there. See entry for No. 9, ibid.  10 For more on the Muslim goldsmiths and other artisans in the Tamil quarter of Malacca, see Sinnappah Arasaratnam, Indians in Malaysia and Singapore (Oxford University Press, Bombay and London, 1970), p. 7.  11 De Filippis, "Traces of a Life," pp. 45-47.  12 For the fusion of Chinese, Mediterranean, Persian, and Indian design influences beginning as early as the Tan dynasty (618-907), see Voskuil-Groenewegen, Leeuwrik, and Eliëns, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, pp. 12-13; for the characteristics of East Indian silver, see p. 65.  13 I have not finished my analysis of these latter two characteristics, and thus cannot at this point conclude that they also originated in the East.  14 Mrs. Russel Hastings, "Peter Van Dyck of New York, Goldsmith, 1684-1750, Part I," The Magazine Antiques, vol. 31, no. 5 (May 1937), p. 238.  15 It was the second marriage for both: in 1711 Van Dyck married Rachel le Roux and Van Varick married Barent de Kleyn. Each union resulted in one child: Rachel van Dyck and Leonard de Kleyn, respectively.  Margrieta van Varick's daughter Johanna was her other heir. Sons Rudolphus and Marinus died before reaching the age of maturity.  16 See Kristen H. McKinsey, "The Le Roux and Van Dyck Families: Life as a Silversmith in New York City before 1750," in Elegant Plate: Three Centuries of Precious Metals in New York City, ed. Deborah Dependahl Waters (Museum of the City of New York, New York, 2000), vol. 1, pp. 20-22.  17 A caster in this period would have been called a box. Thus a piece like the Schuyler caster might fit the description of an "East India Silver wrought box," such as we find in Van Varick's inventory.  18 A New York style tankard in the Charleston Museum in South Carolina carries both Peter van Dyck's and Simeon Soumaine's hallmarks. See Eleanor H. Gustafson, "Museum accessions," The Magazine Antiques, vol. 114, no. 1 (July 1978), p. 68. There is also "an almost obliterated mark which appears to be close to that attributed to Everardus Bogardus" on the handle of the porringer in Fig. 16. See Kathryn C. Buhler and Graham Hood, American Silver: Garvan and Other Collections in the Yale University Art Gallery (Yale University Press for the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1970), vol. 2, p. 45, No. 590.  19 I am grateful to Anne Hoy, an independent scholar, for suggesting I search for an astrolabe in American collections that might have served as inspiration for these handles, and I thank Karina Corrigan, H. A. Crosby Forbes Curator of Asian Export Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, for finding this item.  20 Jacob de Lange (d. c. 1685) is one such New York resident whose inventory full of "East Indian" goods also indicates a connection to the East. See Kenneth Scott and James A. Owre, Genealogical Data from Inventories of New York Estates, 1666-1825 (New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, New York, 1970), p. 39.

MARYBETH DE FILIPPIS is assistant curator of American art at the New-York Historical Society.

Thank you for signing up.

[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

» View All