Stone Tablets in Amsterdam
|This is the second page on
Amsterdam gevelstenen ('stone tablets
from a faÁade; is a poor translation); the first one can be
Some tablets show animals. D' VLIEGENDE VO is a bit problematic. It is the incorrect spelling of the name of an old ship, De vliegende vos ('the flying fox'), but the animal depicted here resembles the winged horse that is shown at the Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat 29 too. The presence of the brushes does not really help. This one's at the Blauwburgwal 1.
|In the Bloemstraat 20, D' PELLECAEN means, of course, 'the pelican'. The bird was believed to pick in its own breast and to feed its children with its blood. This pelican was, therefore, not only a lovely bird, but also a symbol of charity.|
|D' GEKROONDE WATER-HONT
means 'the crowned water dog'; it decorates
the house at the Nieuwe Leliestraat 107.
The next picture shows, at the corner of the Herengracht and Leidsegracht, the four "heemskinderen": the brethren Ritsaert, Writsaert, Adelaert, and Renout. According to a legend, they fought against Charlemagne, supported by their exceptionally strong horse Beiaert.
|In the end, however, they had to drown their horse to achieve the release of their captured father. The legend has an unusual ending because it tells about the death of Beiaert from point of view of the horse. In Dendermonde (Belgium), it is still commemorated with large processions (picture). This tradition has roots in the Middle Ages.|
|Several tablets betray an interest in topography. IN DE OUDE SCHANS means "On the old bulwark", and this is indeed where this decorative slab used to be (today, it is on a wall near the Amsterdam Historical Museum). It is quite interesting, because you can see the Old Church (center), ships, and the bulwark that is now known as the Schreierstoren. The fisherman and swans add some charm.|
|Some stone tablets shows the topography of places outside Amsterdam: IN T HUYS TE BENTEM (the House of Bentheim) is an accurate representation of the faÁade to the left on this painting of the castle of Bentheim. The painting is by Jacob van Ruysdael (1628-1682) and can be seen in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague. It can be seen at the corner of the BethaniŽnsteeg and the Kloveniersburgwal.|
|S-HERTOGENBOSCH (the city of Den Bosch; "the duke's forest") is shown on Dam 11. This plaque is based on an engraving made in 1567 and published in Guiciardini's Description of the Low Countries. There is evidence that this house, owned by the family Cloeck, was already called 's Hertogenbosch in 1590.|
|DUYNSIGT can be translated as 'view of the dunes', although the house in Amsterdam is far away from these sandy hills. We see a cabin, a hunter who has caught rabbits (dangerous animals because their tunnels weakened the defenses against the sea), and a fox looking at the rabbits (to the left).|
|It comes as no surprise that ships were common objects on the gevelstenen. After all, Amsterdam was a port. We already saw one above. This is a buss (a large fishing boat at which herrings could be gutted and stored) and its drift net. The house at the Singel 358 is called IN DE VERGULDE HARINGBUYS, 'at the gilded herring buss'.|
|OVER NES means 'beyond the wetlands', i.e., the country outside the dikes. What's better than to show a trading vessel? The low fore shows that it is a fluit, the most important type of merchant ship. It can be seen at the Prinsengracht 160.|
|Along the river, at the Amstel 65, this sign says D' 3 SCHUYTEN, which, as you already expected, means 'the three barges'.|
|This house has a real portrait as plaque: it represents admiral Cornelis Tromp (1629-1691) and his ship The Golden Lion. The owners of the house at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 136 may have had reasons to commemorate the hero, who played an important role during the Third Anglo-Dutch War.|
|This sign marked the entrance of a hofje ("little court") that was founded in 1616 by Mr. Claes Anslo at the Egelantiersstraat 50. The crowned millstone and arrows are the attributes of the Norwegian saint Hallvard VebjÝrnsson, who was killed in 1043 by archers and drowned with a millstone after he had attempted to prevent the rape of a woman.|
|This saint, the patron of
Oslo, is not well-known in Holland, but Mr.
Anslo was from Norway.
Finally, it should be said that many gevelstenen can not be included in a category, like this coach, drawn by a horse.
|The gablestone of the house D' GROOTE KIES, 'the big molar', can be seen on a wall in the Sint-LuciŽnsteeg.|
|DE HOOP simply means 'hope', and this personification is of course shown with her attribute, an anchor. It can be seen at the Prinsengracht 224.|
|The neighbors at the Prinsengracht 226 had this plaque and called their home TABAKSVAT: 'barrel of tobacco'.|
|TARWE AKKER means 'wheat field'. It can be found in the Nieuwe Leliestraat 22.|
|An angel, a swan, and a preacher, at the corner of the Bloemstraat and the Lijnbaansgracht. What they represent, is simply unknown. The dress of the figure to the right suggests that it was made in the eighteenth century.|
|IN DE GOUDSBLOEM means 'marigold'. The spelling of the word and the design of this stone tablet, which can be found in the Bloemstraat 30, suggests that it is modern. It shows that the tradition is upkept by some people. The next picture shows another recent one: DE LEZENDE KIP, 'the reading chicken'. It was made in 1992 and can be found in the Anjeliersstraat 40.|
|The Vereniging Vrienden van de Amsterdamse Gevelstenen (VVAG) takes care of the stone signs. Many of them have been restored; others, which were believed to be lost, have been rediscovered. I have found much useful information on the VVAG's website, and would like to thank Mr. Onno Boers and Bill Thayer for advice on the translation of gevelsteen. Thanks also to Hannie van Leeuwen, who gave me the next photo...|
| ... IN DE WAR (Warmoesstraat 62). This is a wordplay. It is an abbreviation
for "You're in the War(moesstraat)", but it also means "I am a bit confused".
Those who know me, understand that Hannie's gift was vert apt.
The next stone tablet is not a real tablet, as it is clearly three-dimensional. It can be found in the Anjelierstraat and was made by the Unknown Artist.
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 16 August 2011