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Recently, I got the opportunity to contribute a short article about the multi-talented architect, engraver, collector, writer, and naturalist Simon Schijnvoet (1652-1727) to the website of the Panpoëticon Batavûm (in Dutch). Schijnvoet not only was a moralistic and witty writer with great knowledge of history and natural philosophy, but he also designed the cabinet called the Panpoëticon Batavûm. 

Panpoëticon Batavúm (Digital Reconstruction)

So what is the Panpoëticon Batavûm?

Many people know the most famous painters from the Dutch Republic, for instance Rembrandt and Vermeer. Besides that, however, around 1700, the painter and engraver Arnoud van Halen (1673-1732) thought that Netherlands’ most famous poets and writers also deserved a place of honor. Therefore, he decided to initiate a cabinet in which these writers could be united, and he painted their portraits encasing them with list in the form of a golden laurel. The collection was very progressive for its time, also containing portraits of female and Flemish writers. Even decades after Van Halen’s death, his successors kept organising elections to add more authors to the growing collection. In the end it contained over 350 portraits. 

Unfortunately, in 1807 a catastrophe happened: close to the room in which the Panpoëticon was housed in Leiden, a ship full of gunpowder exploded, ruining a large part of the town. Although the Panpoëticon survived the disaster, it was severely damaged. The explosion financially ruined its owners, so there was no money to restore the cabinet. Therefore, the 350 portraits were sold individually, and are now dispersed all over the world.

Dr. Lieke van Deinsen and Dr. Ton van Strien decided to start an initiative to re-unite all portraits of the Panpoëticon. Therefore, they created a website by which all authors, once housed in Schijnvoets' brilliantly designed cabinet, can be brought together in a virtual way once again; accompanied by short articles providing literary and biographical information about them. Furthermore, it would be great to find back as many of the original portraits as possible. If you know anything about Schijnvoet’s portrait, or one of the other portraits in a frame formed as a golden laurel [see portrait of Sibylle van Griethuysen below], do not hesitate to contact me, Dr. Lieke van Deinsen or Dr. Ton van Strien... 


View a list of portraits found and those still missing...


Simon Schijinvoet

Portrait of Simon Schijnvoet by Pieter Schenk (Amsterdam City Archives)


Sibylle van Griethuysen (1621-1699), a Dutch poet, painted by Arnoud van Halen, 1700-1720

Sibylle van Griethuysen (1621-1699), a Dutch poet, painted by Arnoud van Halen, 1700-1720, in the distinctive golden laurel frame.


Tanne Bloks is currently following the double research master Dutch Literature and Culture (NL&C) and History and Philosophy of Science (HPS). In 2020 she received her BA in Dutch Language and Culture (cum laude) at Utrecht University (Netherlands). Her multidisciplinary research integrates methods and theories from book history, the history of collecting, colour theory and optics. Currently she is writing her masterthesis in which she explores how variations in the materials used at the time could have influenced observations scientists made in optics, and hence shaped their theories regarding colour.