Anonymous: The orphanage series (1619)

(Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar, Alkmaar, The Netherlands)

A set of 5 paintings made by an unknown 17th century Dutch artist. This nice set was probably commissioned by the regents of the orphanage in the Dutch town of Alkmaar, the artist was probably a local artist. The entire set hang above the entrance of the room of the regents of the orphanage. The set shows the good work of the orphanage (at least in the minds of the regents): children become orphaned with the death of their parents and are sent to the orphanage. There the orphans receive clothes, food and an education and leave the orphanage as good citizens. Each painting has a small text which explains what each painting is showing.

Painting 1: A funeral procession.
A funeral procession, traditionally composed of only men, is walking from the Schoutenstraat, through the Langestraat in Alkmaar to the Great, or St. Lawrence Church in Alkmaar. The text explains: "O death, oh sad death, O corpse, weepy corpse, You leave the child in need, the Orphanage is their refuge."

Painting 2: Arrival of the orphans in the orphanage
Family of the children, orphaned in painting 1, bring the children to the orphanage. On the left are other orphans visible through the doorway. The text explains: "Oh sad friends, what shall we do with these poor orphans. Let us bring these poor descendants to the orphanage"

Painting 3: The orphans are brought to the regents.
After the children are brought to the orphanage, they are being led to the regents (the board-of-directors) of the institute. The text says: "You (orphan) fathers, please accept these orphaned children who are in our care. It will not hinder the orphanage..

Painting 4: The teaching of the orphans
The children have received new clothes and receive education. The boys learn a craft (tailoring, forging etc), the girls learn several household tasks such as sewing and ironing. The text encourages the orphans: "God will always love you, if you earn a living in the sweat of your brow, and praise God's name"

Painting 5: The children leave the orphanage

The children are now adults and leave the orphanage and praise the regentesses for their work: "Thanks to you and your abilities, mothers, for your care and teachings, expect a reward from God for this, you will receive praise from us.

Entire set from 1619.