Cornelis Anthonisz: Banquet of Members of Amsterdam's Crossbow Civic Guard (1533)


(Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

An early example of a civic guard portrait by the Dutch artist Cornelis Anthonisz. (1505 – 1553). In the 15th and 16th century the civic guards were organized into guilds and associated with either a longbow, a crossbow or a musket. The main function of these medieval civic guard guilds still was to 'preserve the unity of the city' (from outside and inside threads) but also parading with the many religious processions (most of these guilds also had an private chapel in a church), shooting competitions and assisting the city council during revolts. During the Dutch war of independence (1568-1648) most of the medieval civic guard guilds were disbanded and reconstituted by the city councils - these new civic guard units were more military organized with colonels, captains, luitenants etc. Cornelis Anthonisz shows a complete unit, a so-called 'rot' - 1 of the 12, of the crossbow Civic Guard guild from Amsterdam during a banquet. The nickname of this painting is the 'braspennings-meal', a 'braspenning' was a type of coin, a reference to the rather simple meal the members are having - translated into today it would mean the '1-dollar meal'. The members are all dressed in their guild uniform with consists of a blue-red jacket with an emblem on the right shoulder. In the upper right corner is a depiction of saint George - the patron saint of the crossbow civic guards. Civic guard guild who used the longbow had saint Sebastian as their patron saint while the musket civic guards used either saint Michael or saint Barbara as their patron saint. At the bottom on the tablecloth is a monogram - either a D, a G or H, the number of this company within the crossbow Civic Guard. The reasons for this portrait is unknown. Could be that the painting was commissioned to remember the yearly gathering of the 200 members of the crossbow civic guard member. Portraying the civic guard members during a meal was an innovation of Cornelis Anthonisz - this painting was the first of such. The meal as a whole symbolizes the unity and companionship of the members. 
One member of the guild is holding a piece of paper. This is a sheet with the text and music of the populair love song 'In Minen Sin' (= "In my heart') - see the link below for a performance of this song: 

In mijnen sin hadde ick vercoren
een suyver maechdeken ionck van daghen;
schoonder wijf en was noyt geboren
ter werelt wijt, na mijn behaghen.
Om haren wille so wil ick waghen
beyde lijf ende daer toe goet;
mocht ic noch troost aen haer beiaghen,
so waer ick vro, daer ic nu trueren moet.

English translation:

In my heart I had chosen
A virgin young in days.
A more beautiful woman had never been born
in all the world, who suited me more
For her sake I want to risk
both life and goods;
if I would ever get love comfort from her
I would be glad, whereas I am now in distress.

The song is about a man is suffering because he is in love with a woman but he didn't confess his love for her. Why this song was included in the painting is unknown. Could be that the woman in the song is a reference to the princess in the tale of saint George and the dragon. Painting from 1533.


A performance of 'In Minen Sin' (link to Youtube): Egidius Quartet - In mijnen sin

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