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  • Author: VAN TAST, Ton (VAN DER Valk, Anton)
  • Publisher: Haagsche Post, The Hague, The Netherlands
  • Engraver: L Van Leer & Co, Amsterdam
  • Date: 1930
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 41.5 x 56 cms / Map: 38 x 51 cms


Delightful pictorial map of the Netherlands, designed by cartoonist “Ton van Tast” (Anton van der Valk) for “Haagsche Post” [1930]

About this piece:

Nederland de bakermat van roemruchte gebeurlijkheden in verleden en heden

[The Netherlands, birthplace of famous happenings past and present]

Bijlage “Haagsche Post” Kerstnummer, 25 December 1930, No.895

Colour-printed map. Wide margins. Trace of original central (horizontal) fold. Old pinholes with faint traces of rust in sheet corners, affecting margins only, and now filled and reinforced on verso. Some slight creasing but overall in fine condition.

Wonderfully humorous and highly decorative pictorial map of the Netherlands published as a special 1930 Christmas supplement for the popular Dutch magazine, De Haagsche Post, designed by the eccentric Dutch cartoonist, Anton van der Valk [1884-1975], perhaps better known by his pen name, Ton Van Tast which he adopted after World War One.

Van der Valk was a product of the Hague’s Academy of Arts, where he enrolled, against his father’s wishes, in 1901. He later studied in Rotterdam & Paris. In the pre-First World War period, he worked as a commercial artist and cartoonist for many of the leading Dutch satirical magazines. He was also an accomplished book binder, illustrator & stamp designer. From 1923 to 1948 he supplied a regular weekly comic strip column, De Daverende Dingen Dezer Dagen (The tumultuous things these days), for the Haagsche Post. After World War II he also published two collections recording the history of the war in comic strip form.

This map provides a remarkable pictorial summary of Dutch history from the earliest times through to the most recent, incorporating decorative cartouches & insets that parody the designs of the great 17th Century Dutch cartographers. The title cartouche is a riot of inter-war fun & kitsch, embellished with imitation classical figures, playful cherubs & much exposed flesh. The personification of Holland, perhaps Queen Wilhelmina herself, is shown in suitably martial pose, spear in hand, on the prow of a ship bearing the motto of the Dutch coat of arms, Je Maintiendrai and beside a somewhat bemused-looking Dutch lion. Attendant mermaids & mermen symbolize Holland’s long maritime history & traditions. Surrounding female acolytes proudly blast out the tune of the old Dutch national anthem (Wien Nederland bloed in de aders vloeit – Whoever has Dutch blood flowing in their veins…) on trumpets and a jazz saxophone. Loosely tied to a merman’s shell, the bespectacled caricature of the artist himself, Ton Van Tast, can be seen smoking a pipe & sketching at an easel in a small rowing boat which flies a small flag labelled H.P (Haaagsche Post). Interestingly the Haagsche Post headquarters are also prominently displayed with red capital initials in Den Haag. The artist’s signature appears immediately below his boat: Ton van Tast fecit, Ao 1930.

Just below, a fleet of Dutch galleons take part in one of the great and glorious sea battles (usually against the English) which so frequently marked the country’s history during the 17th & 18th Centuries.  And below that a ferocious giant sea serpent is lured shore wards by a enticing giant bite proffered by a tourist & captured on film by his excited companion.

The map emphasizes the Netherlands long history of maritime exploration and its rich and enduring colonial links and heritage. In the upper right, a wonderful vignette depicts Jacob van Heemskerk & Wilhelm Barents’ expedition to Novoya Zemla in 1597 and their fateful overwintering in huts built on the Arctic ice. The scene is completed by the famous quotation from Hendrik Tollens’ 1819 account of those events, which is held aloft on a banner by a naked mermaid: Men rekent de uitslag niet, doch telt het doel alleen (one does not calculate the result but only counts the purpose). In the lower corners, two elaborate insets highlight the Netherlands’ colonial connections in both West and East – Onze West (Our West) depicts a West Indian or Guyanan banana plantation, whilst Onze Oost (Our East), depicts a Dutch colonial administrator meeting a local Indonesian chieftain against an exotic backdrop which includes an erupting volcano.

The rest of the map is a delightful pictorial encyclopaedia of Dutch history, traditions, folklore, and literature, the illustrations and vignettes too numerous and vast to catalogue or reference individually.  A few examples from across Dutch history may give a flavour of the map’s inherent wit and humour.

Many of the illustrations relate to the medieval period and to the struggles for Dutch Independence from the Spanish during the late 16th Century. In the South West corner of the map, the seated figure of Wilhelm Buekelszoon can be seen seated on a barrel with an open-mouthed herring in his hands. According to legend, in the early 14th Century, this local Zeeland fisherman is credited with the invention of an effective method of preserving herring – first by retaining their pancreases during gutting and then salting & encasing them.

Other illustrations relating to the medieval period include the heroic figure of Jan van Schaffelaar, a fifteenth century knight who can be seen throwing himself off the church tower at Barnevelt (mid centre) in order to save his besieged troops from surrender. Just below can be seen the infamous Duke of Gelders, Reinoud III, known as Reinoud the Fat, whose obesity reached such proportions following ten years imprisonment [1361-71] that he was unable to get out of his prison cell when finally given his freedom. Nearby can be seen being played out one of the longest Gelderland feuds of the 14th Century between the Lords of Heekeren and van Bronkhorst.

Van Tast presents numerous amusing tales from the 16th Century Wars of Independence. In Belgium a group of celebrating Dutch nobles can be seen in front of the figure of the Spanish regent, Margaret of Parma – this is the famous Smeekschrift van Edelen (Petition of the Nobles) when the group successfully petitioned for an end to Protestant persecution in the Low Countries at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. The group can be seen shouting Vive les Gueux! (Long live the beggars!), “gueux” being the pejorative put-down of some of their Spanish overlords.

Another event a few year later relates to the Capture of the port of Brille by the Dutch on April 1st 1572, depicted in a vignette on the coast mid left, and an event committed to memory by innumerable Dutch schoolchildren in the famous mnemonic:  Op 1 April verloor Alva zyn brilOn 1st April Alva lost his glasses. A clever pun on this Dutch town’s name and the similar Dutch word for glasses. April 1st was of course also April Fool’s Day.

Another vignette nearby, depicts the famous “Turf ship of Breda”, this Trojan Horse style ruse used in 1590 when Dutch troops succeeded in capturing the Castle at Breda by hiding in a local boat which brought supplies of peat to heat the Spanish garrison. A cannon can be seen exploding from the ship’s stern with the word “Achoo” as it approaches the town.  Another event in the same year depicts a similar situation when Spanish troops in Gelderland tried to infiltrate and capture the town of Lochem by hiding in hay carts. The town was saved by the gatekeeper’s son who began picking out hay to feed some of his animals, and, spotting an exposed Spanish boot, quickly raised the alarm and so prevented the town’s capture. The citizens of Lochem are apparently still known as “hooiplukkers” (hay pickers).

In the South, the City of Eindhoven is a glowing array of electric light bulbs. It was here that Gerard Philips first established a factory for the production of electric light bulbs in 1891, though its association with light in fact dates back even further to its match making factory established here in 1870. Both provided the City with its well-known moniker Lichtstad (City of Lights), one which endures to the present day in its annual light-themed Glow Festival.

Van Tast also references more recent personalities and events. Near to Eindhoven can be a smiling trio in a  monoplane en route to the Dutch East Indies. This was the first ever long-distance KLM flight (in a Fokker FVII) from Holland to Java, which took off from Holland on October 1st 1924. The crew consisted of Captain Jan van der Hoop, Lieutenant Hendrik van Weerden Poelman and Engineer Pieter van der Broeke. Following a crash landing in Bulgaria and time-consuming repairs and a new engine (funded by public appeal) the plane eventually reached Batavia on November 24th, following 21 further stops en route, mostly in India. Though an inauspicious start, the achievement was nonetheless heralded as a great success in bringing closer connectivity between Holland and the Dutch East Indies. Indeed by the time of Van Tast’s map in 1930, a regular KLM passenger service between Holland and Batavia was in full operation.

In the North East of the country, Van Tast provides other meaningful contemporary references. Above the smoking chimneys of the textile town of Twenthe, a vignette of the annual Sterkamp (Star camp) held in the town of Ommen for the enraptured followers of the 20th Century mystic “World Teacher” and Theosophist, Jiddu Krishnamurti [1885-1986]. It was in Ommen in 1929 that Krishnamurti announced his final rupture with the Theosophist movement. Above this scene, appears an equally strange gathering of the followers of the so-called Staphorster boertje (the Staphorst peasant) – an Overijssel farmer called Peter Stegeman [1840-1922], who became renowned in the late 19th and early 20th Century as a popular herbalist and medical quack. As well as touring the country and setting up visiting “surgeries” in many large cities & towns, people would also visit Staphorst from far & wide to ask his advice and buy untested medical potions and concoctions of his own making. Above this gathering, Van Tast caricatures a highly popular contemporary politician of the 20’s & 30’s, Harm Smeenge [1852-1935]. Smeenge was a great supporter of local workers, especially boatmen and the impoverished peat cutters working on the reclaimed polders. His sponsorship for the latter group ensured each worker’s family was provided with a goat. So it is that he can here be seen holding one whilst and at the same time exhorting these poor workers with the popular Dutch expression, Vorhuit met de giet! (literally “forward with the goat” = let’s get started/ let’s get moving). In nearby Frisia, Van Tast references the equally popular contemporary priest and naturalist, Rev Jakobus de Stoppelaar [1873-1948], who can be seen admiring the local bird life through a large telescope.

Neighbouring German territory is clearly denoted in the lower right of the map with the traditional figure of Deutsche Michel smoking a meerschaum pipe with a familiar Dachshund in close attendance.

A truly delightful pictorial map – a potted comic encyclopaedia of Dutch history & culture – designed by one of Holland’s most engaging 20th Century cartoonists.

Refs: Hans D Kok: Een Geschiednis canon voor Nederland uit een Haagsche Post-bijlage van 1930: Caert Thresoor 2010-4