Enfilade

Exhibition | Showpiece from the Palmwood Wreck

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on March 15, 2019

I’m posting this seventeenth-century exhibition, showcasing what may be a late sixteenth-century cup, to draw attention to the Museum Kaap Skil more generally; Texel, located some 50 miles north of Amsterdam, was a crucial anchorage, particularly for large VOC vessels. Visiting the Vasa Museum in Stockholm a few years ago (many of you have been there) helped me grasp just how much ‘material culture’ was taken up by ships in the early modern period. Inventory lists—indeed, even seascapes crowded with ships—now come to life for me in a way that they didn’t previously. On the grounds of the Kaap Skil museum, there’s also a working windmill used to process grain: the Traanroeier, which dates to 1727 (originally located on the Weer, at the intersection with the Traanroeyer ditch, it was moved to Texel in 1902). CH

Now on view at Museum Kaap Skil, from the press release:

Diving in Details: Showpiece from the Palmwood Wreck
Museum Kaap Skil, Texel, Netherlands, 9 March — 9 September 2019

Gilt silver cup, likely made in Neurenberg around the end of the 16th century; it was recovered in 2016 from the Palmwood wreck.

An exceptional object from the Palmwood wreck [palmhout, or boxwood] can be seen for the next six months at Museum Kaap Skil—in Oudeschild on the island of Texel. A gilt silver cup, expertly restored after almost four centuries on the sea bottom, is being displayed in the exhibit Diving in Details. Expert Jan Beekhuizen, known from the television program Kunst & Kitsch (Art & Fake), notes that it is “exceptional, if not unique, that such a find surfaces from a ship wreck.”

A specially designed showcase allows the viewer to observe the gilt cup from all sides. Details can be seen and enlarged on a touchscreen. The cup is decorated with driven flower patterns and mascarons, ornaments representing faces. The cup was unveiled at the Rijksmuseum on March 7 by deputy Jack van der Hoek and museum manager Corina Hordijk, together with the presentation of a report on the Palmwood wreck collection.

The discovery of the Palmwood wreck by divers from Texel and the unusually rich finds surfaced from this wreck created a worldwide sensation in 2016. The lovely silk dress and other luxury garments and personal belongings from the wreck made it clear that the cargo being transported by the ship belonged to very wealthy, perhaps even royal people. Even the gilt silver cup fits this picture. Only the richest could afford such an object.

The wreck of the ship and almost four centuries lying in the sea bottom have taken their toll: the cup surfaced partially flattened and broken into three parts. In addition, there were dark corrosive bumps on the surface. Experts from the restoration workshop Restaura have carefully removed the deposits, reattached the loose parts, and restored the cup to its original shape. The war god Mars, standing on the lid of the cup, has lost his shield, but otherwise the cup is more or less whole.

The exhibition Diving in Details also features a 17th-century painting depicting such a cup, showing how such objects were used to display wealth. The Palmwood wreck was once a heavily armed fluyt (‘straatvaarder’), destined for trade in the Mediterranean. The ship sank in the 17th century on the Roads of Texel. It is still unknown who the owner of the ship and the cargo was.

Documentation of the recovered objects has just been published; from the Museum Kaap Skil:

Arent D. Vos et al., edited by Birgit van den Hoven and Iris Toussaint, Wereldvondsten uit een Hollands schip: Basisrapportage BZN17/Palmhoutwrak (Haarlem: Provincie Noord-Holland, 2019), 443 pages, ISBN: 978-9492428134, €20.

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More information about the discovery of the ship—including its mistaken association in 2016 with a ship that was in 1642 part of a royal British fleet—comes from Jessamyn Hatcher, “Treasure Island: The Extraordinary Finds of an Amateur Diving Club in Holland,” The New Yorker (19 September 2017). Hatcher quotes “Arent Vos, a marine archeologist who specializes in the Texel Roads, [who] estimates that up to a thousand ships wrecked off the island’s coast between 1500 and 1800.”

Also see, Tracy Robey, “Global Cargo,” Archaeology (May/June 2018), where the Palmwood Wreck (Burgzand Noord 17) is described as “the richest cargo of seventeenth-century luxury goods ever found underwater,” owing to its “stunning collection of silk garments and velvet textiles, leather book covers, and pottery.”

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