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Museum Van Loon exhibits family’s matriarchal heritage

Patrician’s canal house breathes authenticity

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - Time seems to have passed over the house at Keizersgracht 672, where the interior has been turned into a museum, showcasing an era that otherwise has long departed from Amsterdam’s bustling city core. Built in the early 1600s to accommodate a great influx of newcomers, the grachtengordel or canal belt of which the Keizersgracht is a part, the stately canal house was for decades the home of the patrician Van Loon family.

It is from there that the Van Loons made their daily visit to the Stock Exchange and supervised their far flung financial interests and plotted their strategies.

Until now, attention has largely been on how the Van Loon’s fared in business, leaving their marriage partners in the background. Yet, their women played an important role in the history of the Van Loon family, particularly because the unions frequently had an eye on ‘empire building’ as well. Marrying well meant expanding a capital and power base. In these unions ‘love’ was just one consideration in the merger of two important families.

The Van Loon family originally hailed from Loon op Zand, near the Brabant capital of 's Hertogenbosch, in the southern part of the Netherlands. At the end of the sixteenth century they fled from the Spanish occupation to the safety of Amsterdam, where throughout the centuries they were to play important administrative roles. For example, Willem van Loon was a co-founder of the Dutch East-India Company in 1602. Several members of the family served as mayors of the city of Amsterdam. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Van Loon family was officially elevated to nobility. Women of Van Loon

Three of the Van Loon marriage partners have played crucial roles in the history of the family: Willem’s son Hans (1577-1658) married Anna Ruychaver (1573-1649), a daughter of Haarlem’s mayor and gunpowder trader Marten Ruychaver and a niece of Nicolaes Ruychaver, a famous general in the war against Spain.

Louise Borski (1832-1893), heiress of the Borski’s, the most powerful banking family (Hope & Co) in the Netherlands in the 19th century, and owner of the immense Elswout estate near Haarlem, married Jonkheer Hendrik Maurits Jacobus van Loon (1831-1901).

In 1884 Hendrik Maurits van Loon bought the majestic house on the Keizersgracht as a wedding present for his son Jonkheer Willem Hendrik van Loon and his wife Thora Egidius (1865-1945), the charming daughter of the Norwegian consul. As Dame du Palais to Queen Wilhelmina, Thora van Loon organized her weekly Jour in her Blue Drawing Room.

In an exposition on these Women of Van Loon, portraits, documents, garments, fans and parasols will be displayed, along with photographs of members of foreign royal families given to Thora van Loon and to the present Mrs. Van Loon, who is employed as Mistress of the Robes by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix.

Museum’s roots

Museum Van Loon is housed in a double-sized canal house that dates from 1672. The houses were built for Jeremias van Raey, a merchant who hailed from Flanders. Adriaen Dortsman, famous for his work on the Lutheran Church and the Walenweeshuis (the Walloon orphanage on the Vijzelgracht, which is now the French consulate), designed and supervised the construction of the houses. Van Raey came to live at number 674 and rented next door to artist Ferdinand Bol, one of Rembrandt's most famous pupils.

Following a thorough restoration, the house was partly opened to the public as Museum Van Loon in 1973.