Batavia (today Jakarta, Indonesia) was founded in 1619 as the capital of the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) vast South and Southeast Asian colonial empire, immediately making it one of the most important centres in the Eastern Hemisphere. Batavia’s first heyday occurred during its first decades, taking advantage of the ‘spice boom’ and the apogee of Dutch naval power, while the 18th Century and the Napoleonic Wars brought more challenging times. The VOC was dissolved in 1799, placing its colonial holdings, including Batavia, under the control of the Netherlands government.
From the 1820s onwards, the Netherlands aimed to consolidate its dominance over the Indonesian Archipelago, crushing indigenous rebellions and invading and conquering the lands still under native rule. The new global commodities boom, brought about by the Industrial Revolution, ensured that the Dutch East Indies were an enormous source of wealth for the Netherlands. Some of this money was directed to Batavia for the construction of elegant colonial buildings, particularly in the Weltevreden neighbourhood. This district, located 10 km south of what was then central Batavia, was, in 1809, made the official government centre for the capital, owing to its relatively healthful climate and the preexistence of several large mansions owned by colonial grandees.
Present here are two attractive original watercolour views of two of most important 19th century Dutch buildings in the Weltevreden, executed in 1870, by a “C. Colleart”, being the Willemskerk and the Residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Dutch Army in the East Indies. Despite the importance and beauty of such structures, very few original artworks from before 1900 depicting Jakarta’s colonial gems survive, making this pairing a special find.
We have not been able to dial down on Colleart’s biography, which is perhaps a topic for future research. Also, the fact that the captions of the watercolours are in French (as opposed to Dutch), is not surprising, as French was then commonly used as a second language amongst the colonial establishment in Batavia.
“Indes Néerlandaises. Batavia. / Habitation du Commandant de l’armée”.
Manuscript, Batavia, 1870.
Manuscript, pen, ink and watercolour on laid paper, signed “D. Collaert 1870” in lower right corner, upon original card mounting bearing handwritten titles (Good, some minor chipping to paint and some light spotting, some minor marginal tears to mounts but no loss), mount: 24.5 x 32.5 cm; watercolour proper: 12.5 x 25.5 cm.
The present watercolour, signed by Coleart and dated ‘1870’, depicts what was known as the ‘Residentie van legercommandant’, or the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Dutch Army in the East Indies, who for all practical purposes was by far and away the most important military figure in the Netherlands service. The neoclassical building was built in 1830, specifically to serve as the commander’s residence, upon a verdant lot in what became known as the Hertogspark, so named after Duke (Hertog) Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who occupied the estate around 1850.
In rich watercolours, the present view captures the Residentie’s well-known portico, framed by Doric columns, upon which many of the great events in Indonesian history were deliberated.
Subsequently, the Residentie was renovated and expanded, and around 1900 it was converted into the bureau of the ‘Raad van Indië’ (the Council of the Indies), the Governor-General’s advisory board. In 1918, it became the home of the Volksraad, the colonial parliament. In 1945, Sukarno, the future founding President of Indonesia, gave his famous ‘Gedung Pancasila’ speech at the Residentie, referring to the ‘five pillars’ of his envisaged republic. The edifice survives to the present day as part of the Indonesian government estate.
“Weltenvreden Batavia / Église des Réformés”.
[Manuscript, Batavia, 1870.]
Manuscript, pen, ink and watercolour on laid paper, upon original card mounting bearing handwritten titles (Good, some light spotting with some staining to lower-right corner of mount), mount: 24 x 30.5 cm; watercolour proper: 13 x 26 cm.
This attractive watercolour showcases the domed, neoclassical Willemskerk, located on the Koningsplaats in Weltenvreden. The church was conceived when the local Lutheran and Dutch Reformed congregations decided to pool their resources to create a grand united meeting place. The edifice was constructed between 1834 and 1839 and was soon named for King Willem II (reigned 1840-9). For generations, it served a one of the main social and spiritual centres of the Dutch colonial regime in Batavia. It was renamed the Immanuel Church in 1948 and survives to the present day. While the watercolour is not signed or dated, it was obviously made by Collaert as companion to the other piece.
References: N/A – Watercolours seemingly not recorded.