Cornelis de Bruijn (c.1652-1727) was a Dutch artist and traveler. He is best known for his drawings of the ruins of Persepolis, the first reliable pictures of these palaces to be accessible for western scholars. His other visits included the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Jerusalem, Russia, and the East Indies.
The Aegean SeaWhen De Bruijn arrived in the important port of trade Smyrna, in the summer of 1678, he was immediately accepted in the circles of the European diplomats. The Dutch consul offered him lodgings, and the English consul invited him for a visit to Selçuk and the ruins of ancient Ephesus. This was more than the young man could reasonably have expected. The consulship of Smyrna, one of the most important offices in the Dutch diplomatic world, was occupied by a nobleman who was not likely to receive any wanderer. De Bruijn was not a well-known artist and could not yet entertain his hosts with stories about countries they had not visited. The hospitality of the consul is even more remarkable when we take into account that he believed that his guest was the man who had tried to kill Johan de Witt.note[Dutch statesman (1625-1672), who dominated the international diplomacy of the third quarter of the seventeenth century. He preferred armed neutrality, which was necessary for intercontinental commerce. This did not prevent him from building a navy and cooperating closely with Michiel de Ruyter. It comes as no surprise that in his own country, he was supported by the rich merchants and the Estates General, and was opposed by the wealthy prince William of Orange, who might one day claim the title of stadholder. During the crisis of 1672, an attempt was made on his life by a man named Cornelis de Bruijn; later, Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were lynched in The Hague. Immediately, William of Orange took charge of the Republic.] De Bruijn stayed in Smyrna for about half a year, and in December, he traveled by land to Constantinople, where he was to stay for a year and a half. His description of the capital of the Ottoman empire in Travels in the Principal Parts of Asia Minor is even less informative than his account of Rome. Because he wants to tell his readers something about the city, he offers excerpts from what he has read in several other books. Back then, this was not an uncommon practice (and in fact, even today, many guide books copy each other), but one wonders why De Bruijn adds almost nothing from his personal experience. There's not even a Turkish equivalent of an anecdote like his tale about the Bentveughels of Rome.note[Group of Dutch artists in Rome, who supported each other. The members group gathered in a building they believed to be the ancient Temple of Bacchus (but was in fact the Mausoleum of Constantia near the Sant' Agnese), and were notorious for their drinking excesses. In 1720, the pope ordered that the group had to be dissolved.] A possible explanation is that he had not yet decided to write a book, and made not many notes. Alternatively, he had other business to attend, but it must have been difficult to make a living as a painter. The Sunna Islam opposes the representation of human beings, and De Bruijn's art can hardly have appealed to the Ottoman taste of what is called the Tulip Period. Perhaps he was on a Casanovanote[Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, chevalier de Seingalt (1725-1798), was an Italian adventurer. At the end of his life, he wrote a highly entertaining autobiography that became famous because of the almost endless list of his erotic conquests. This, however, is only a part of this book, which is in the first place a vivid account of daily life in eighteenth century Europe. Occasionally, Casanova was on a secret mission, for example to Calais, in Holland, and for the Venetian authorities.]-like secret mission (it is interesting to note that Casanova gives no description of his first stay in Constantinople either). This may seem far-fetched, but at least the Dutch ambassador at the Sublime Porte was convinced that the wandering artist had political contacts, because he did not take steps against him, even though he believed that the painter had attempted to kill Johan de Witt. An easier, albeit partial, explanation for De Bruijn's omission is that for eight months, he suffered from a serious illness.
In July 1680, De Bruijn sailed back to Smyrna. He interrupted his voyage to visit the site that was believed to be the ruin of ancient Troy, and went ashore in Mytilene on the isle of Lesbos. In Smyrna, he spent the autumn and winter and planned a visit to the Holy Land, where he wanted to celebrate Easter.
De Bruijn left when the sea became navigable again in February 1681. In his company was his compatriot Rogier van Cleef, who was to gain some fame when William of Orangenote[As prince of Orange, William (1650-1702) was entitled to the stadholdership of Holland, but Johan de Witt carefully kept him out of this office, hoping to continue the policy of neutrality that was so beneficial to trade. In 1672, however, the French and British, allied to two German bishops, attacked the Dutch Republic, and Johan de Witt was killed. William of Orange was made stadholder and although he was no match for the French generals, admiral Michiel de Ruyter defeated the English and in the end, a daring expedition to Bonn by prince William forced the bishop of Cologne to leave the coalition. Two years after the war had begun, France was isolated. In 1688, prince William of Orange accepted an invitation by a protestant minority to become king of England. He defeated the regular, parliamentarian army, conquered London, became king, and announced that he, as he was accustomed in Holland, would share power with the Parliament (the "glorious revolution"). This was the end of the bitter conflict between parliament and crown that had torn apart England since 1603. As king of England and stadholder of Holland, he forged an anti-French coalition that was able to overcome the French attempt, in the War of Spanish Succession, to gain supremacy in Europe.] built a palace called Het Loo. William ordered the fountains to spout higher than those of Louis XIV at Versailles, and Van Cleef was able to do this. But this was still in the future when the two Dutchmen reached Rhodes, where they spent three weeks. They continued their trip and sailed to Tyre. Currents make it hard to sail directly to the south, so a detour was made to Damietta, a famous port on one of the eastern mouths of the Nile. Unfortunately, adversary winds made it impossible to go to Palestine. Never at a loss what to do, De Bruijn decided to stay in Egypt.