Anonymous: The Almoners series (1627)
(Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
A set of paintings created by an unknown Dutch artist for the almoners home in Amsterdam (in Dutch - 'Aalmoezeniershuis') which shows another part of social care in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The almoners home in Amsterdam was created in 1613 to 'to prevent all abuses in the city and to disburden the streets of the beggars' ('alle misbruiken, in deze welgeschikte stadt voor te komen, en de zelve van bedelarye langs der straten geheel en al t’ontlasten’). A part of the former monastery of the Order of Saint Clare in Amsterdam on the Heiligeweg was converted as a location for this institute (the other part was converted for the 'Rasphuis', a prison for young male criminals) by the city council and a 6 people were designated as a board-of-directors, these directors were called 'almoners'. Other activities of the almoners home included finding shelter for orphans who were not in the orphanage or a religious institution, providing shelter for penniless travelers and taking care of people for a small fee. The set shows the activities of the almoners home which in turn are modeled after the seven acts of mercy of the christian church:
- Top center: the registration of poor and orphans in the almoners home. A large group of people are waiting in turn to be registered by the 6 almoners. After their registration the people receive the help that they need: clothing, food, work and a home. among the group who are waiting are people in rags and people who are well dressed. This emphasizes that the help of the almoners is for everybody. Among the group are also staff members of the almoners home.
- Top left: an almoner visits the hemp-factory. In the hemp-factory beggars were put to work, often for a small pay.
- Top right: an almoner is distributing clothing to poor people
- Bottom left: Distribution of bread in the House Chaplain, a major activity of the almoners. Registered people received a 'bread penny' (in the registration painting this is shown on the right side of the painting) which they could exchange for food at the almoners home. The bread that they received was marked to prevent it from being resold.
- Bottom right: almoners on a home visit. At least 2 almoners are seeing visiting a poor family. One one is pointing to his injured foot, the reason why he can't work, while in the background his wife is sick in bed. On the right in the background you can see a funeral - a reference to another job of the almoners: burying the bodies of the poor and supplying their funeral caskets. On the wall of the house there is a small In memoriam card, this is apparently a catholic family. Paintings from around 1626-1628.