BRANDES, Jan (1743-1808). Original watercolor drawing of a banana plantation and pickers in Java. [Sweden: ca 1779-1785].

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A fine original watercolor drawing (8 x 13 inches), of a banana plantation and a family of pickers in Java (one or two old creases).


Provenance: From the collection of celebrated Dutch colonial artist Jan Brandes (1743-1808), Sotheby's 2nd May, 1985, lot 215.

The spirit of the Dutch Age of Enlightenment is embodied in the figure of Jan Brandes, a Lutheran minister who was employed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). In Jonathan Israel's 1995 publication, "The Dutch Republic" he described the Enlightenment as 'a shift to toleration, secularization, classification of knowledge, and popularization." Protestantism, and particularly that worshiped by the Lutheran Church, abhorred idolaterism and this was reflected in the secularization of the arts and thus, the popularization of landscape and still life painting. Jan Brandes was a product of this philosophy and created a valuable collection of drawings of the VOC's settlements in what is now Java, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Born in Brodegraven, a village on the Rhine between The Hague and Utrecht, the young Brandes began his education at his father's French Boarding School in the village, but continued his studies at the University in Leiden, and then the university at Greifswald in Swedish Pomerania in northern Germany. The earliest drawing known to have survived by Brandes is attributed to his time in Greifswald; a self-portrait of the studious young scholar now in the Rijksmuseum. At Greifswald Brandes was exposed to a serious atmosphere of academic study of the natural sciences. "Greifswald was permeated by a Linnean approach to the natural world. A botanical garden was laid out by a young follower of Carolus Linnaeus, Samuel Gustav Wilke, in 1763, just before Jan's arrival... Jan, with his curiosity about natural history, must have marvelled at the new botanical garden" (Remco Raben, "The Call of Luther" in "The World of Jan Brandes, 1743-1808, page 20).

Between finishing his studies in Greifswald in 1768 and leaving for his posting in Batavia as a young Lutheran minister in the service of the VOC, with his new wife, in May of 1778, Brandes was sent to more inland postings in northern Germany and western Holland. From his arrival in the roads of Batavia on the north coast of Java in January of 1779, Brandes stayed ministering to the people and recording the details of his life, and those around him in an extensive series of drawings now in the Rijksmuseum, many of them acquired as part of the same lot at auction in 1985 at which Arader Galleries acquired this drawing. Brandes and his son left their Batavian 'Purgatory', as he called it, in 1785.

For more information about this work, or other watercolors in the Arader Galleries collection, please contact Alison Petretti at 646.673.4505 or by email