What About the Moorish Footman? Portrait of a Dutch Nabob as a Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Kuiper, Y., 29-Jun-2017, A Taste for Luxury in Early Modern Europe : Display, Acquisition and Boundaries. Ilmakunnas, J. & Stobart, J. (eds.). London: Bloomsbury Academic, p. 77-97 21 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

Collecting porcelain, furniture, lacquer, ivory objects, statues and folding screens from the Far East became very popular in Europe in the course of the eighteenth century. The Dutch nabob Jan Albert Sichterman (1692-1764), who as VOC-director made a big career in Bengal, was a dedicated follower of this fashion. As the owner of both a new built townhouse and a country estate in respectively the town and the province of Groningen, he imitated the lifestyle of the rich merchants of Amsterdam and Middelburg. The balcony above the extravagantly carved door of his imposing new mansion was decorated with beautiful ironwork incorporating the monogram J.A.S. supported by two Moorish herms in sandstone. Sichterman liked to show his oriental porcelain, statues and furniture to his visitors, who came from all over Europe; he had even educated one of his black servants to guide his guests through all the rooms and cabinets, full of objects of art and luxury. In this article the author uses the perspective of the historical anthropologist interested in the social and cultural processes of imitation, the symbolic aspects of social superiority and the development of personal and collective taste. Collectively, eighteenth-century nabobs are usually associated with conspicuous consumption and portrayed as typical nouveaux riches; they lack the specific form of distinction that Pierre Bourdieu has discovered: the seemingly natural, ‘embodied’ superiority in social intercourse. For this reason they tended to compensate for this lack by demonstrating material luxury. But there is still the riddle of Sichterman as an individual collector. Had he developed an aesthetic taste and did he enjoy his treasures as vehicles of pure beauty?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Taste for Luxury in Early Modern Europe
Subtitle of host publicationDisplay, Acquisition and Boundaries
EditorsJohanna Ilmakunnas , Jon Stobart
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781474258258
ISBN (Print)9781474258234
Publication statusPublished - 29-Jun-2017


  • Material culture, elite consumption, nouveaux riches, slavery, global trade

ID: 41780113