The main figure in the ceiling painting is depicted on the central canvas. A young woman dressed in white has been portrayed to personify ‘Freedom’. She is protected by the ferocious lion of Amsterdam which is armed with a sword and shield.
On the right-hand canvas Freedom is aided by the personification of the Republic (of the Netherlands) portrayed by Minerva and an eagle. The latter chases off the vices Envy and Lies: the enemies of wise, just rule.
On the left-hand canvas Concord tramples the vanquished, chained enemies personified by two naked men with animal skins and a broken sword.
In the left-hand corner, the composition is concluded by the sea god of the IJ [river], who has been depicted with an anchor and a ship’s wheel. The right-hand canvas shows the river god of the Amstel, recognisable by his oar. Together with Mercury in the centre and the ‘corona navalis’ (naval crown) which Freedom is crowned with, the water gods symbolise the important position shipping had as a source of trade and prosperity for Amsterdam.
More will be posted in the near future on the ceiling’s iconographic programme and the meaning of the ‘Ware Vrijheid’ [True Freedom] in the politics and art of seventeenth-century Holland.
Text: Jephta Dullaart