Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck: Regentesses of the Heilige Geesthuis in Haarlem (1642)

(Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands)

In 1390 Coenraad Cuser, knight and lord of Oosterwijck, gave his house in Haarlem to the city council of Haarlem, in memory of his kille son Willem Cuser, so the building could be used to house the poor and orphans. The building should be named 'Heilige Geesthuis' or 'Holy Spirithouse' and the complex was led by the 'College van Heilige Geestmeesters' or 'college of the Holy Spiritmasters' of the city of Haarlem - a ecclesiastical institution in a Medieval city which took care of charity works like distribution of food to the poor, managing orphanages, Leper colonies etc. In time the 'Heilige Geesthuis' specialized itself in housing the orphans of Haarlem. After 1577 the complex was managed by a group of regentesses (or 'buiten-moeders' as they were also called). This painting shows 4 regentesses of the Heilige Geesthuis. Depicted on the paiting are (from left to right): Margaretha Deyman, Risje van Loo, Claartgen (Clara) Dircksdr. Dicx and Aefgen Hendricksdr van Teffelen. The standing woman on the right is a servant (probably a 'binnen-moeder) who is bring 2 children - notice the small boy who points to his red sleeve. This is the uniform of the children of the orphanage (a red sleeve and a blue sleeve). The orphans themselves were kept busy all kind of different jobs - boys were taught crafts while the girls learned sewing, embroidery and repairing textiles. The large map in the background is a map of the Netherlands. Painting from 1642.

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