Who is Barend Dircksz?

By Gwylym Owen

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Barend Dircksz or Deaf Barend (1500 – 1577) was a Dutch Renaissance painter from Amsterdam.

What Tiny we know of him was written in passing by Karel van Mander, who included a biography of his son, Dirck Barendsz. According to Van Mander who was writing in 1604, Dirck Barendsz’s dad was known as dooven or deaf Barent and he painted a piece dated 1535 which was then still hanging in the Amsterdam City Hall and which depicted a mob of members of a strange sect who wished to take over the city. Van Mander wrote that this painting was somewhat unsettling to see but not revoltingly done for his day.

The painting Van Mander referred to was a depiction of what is known today as the Anabaptist riot and was far ahead destroyed in the blaze which burned the city hall next to in 1652. The Anabaptist riot of Amsterdam or Wederdopersoproer generally refers to an event upon 10 May 1535 in which 40 Anabaptists occupied the city hall. The city guardsmen stormed the city hall and in the fight that ensued, the mayor Peter Colijn, 20 militiamen and 28 Anabaptists were killed. The enduring Anabaptists were executed in a particularly gruesome manner: their hearts were cut out of their breasts while nevertheless alive, their bodies were drawn and quartered, and their heads were stuck on pikes and posted at the city gates. The painting in storyboard form was probably commissioned by the Amsterdam council to both depict the dead militiamen in scenes of valorous bravery, while serving as a warning to any cutting edge insurgents.

For years the attribution of a portrait of the Amsterdam militiamen (Militiamens’ meal in imitation of 8 men) was also truth to Barend Dircksz.

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