Archival Science

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 69–93 | Cite as

Accountability portrayed: documents on regents’ group portraits in the Dutch Golden Age

  • Eric Ketelaar
Original Paper


In 1617/1618, Cornelis van der Voort painted the regents of three institutions in Amsterdam. Nearly all of them have documents, either in their hands or within hand’s reach. On the table are registers, charters, and other archival documents. This new way of depicting regents emphasized the efficiency and effectiveness of their handling the business of the charitable institutions. The new format became very popular: thirty-three portraits of regents’ boards of charitable institutions in Amsterdam have been preserved from the 70 years between 1617 and 1686. The popularity of the genre decreases in Amsterdam during the last quarter of the seventeenth century and increases again some 50 years later. I argue that this was because of changing notions about accountability and governance. Van der Voort’s format was followed in Haarlem, but there the documents on the regents’ group portraits served as mere props, reflecting a culture of accountability that was different from that in Amsterdam in the first decades of the seventeenth century.


Recordkeeping Regents Charitable institutions Holland Paintings Accounting 



This paper is a partial reworking, updating, and translation of Ketelaar (2006, 2008). Different versions of this paper were presented at the Second University of Liverpool Colloquium on Administrative History “Representing Administration and Bureaucracy in Historical Perspective,” Liverpool, October 27–29, 2011, at the Senior Historians’ Conference, Oxford, 7–9 October 2012, and at a conference “Politics and the Archives, Politics of the Archives,” held at Birkbeck, University of London, June 10, 2013, as part of the AR.C.H.I.ves project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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