Pieter van den Broecke was a prominent cloth merchant in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during the 16th and 17th centuries. He was also one of the first Dutchmen to taste coffee, as his travels took him to the Middle East where coffee consumption was common. Van den Broecke was born in Antwerp but lived most of his life in Haarlem, where he became close friends with Frans Hals, a renowned Dutch artist known for his informal portrait style.
In 1633, Hals painted a portrait of Van den Broecke that now hangs in Kenwood House in London. The oil on canvas painting showcases Hals’s signature style, using bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors to capture Van den Broecke’s likeness. It is said that Van den Broecke wore a gold chain from the East India Trading Company during the sitting for this portrait.
Interestingly, Van den Broecke’s son also played a significant role in Dutch colonial history. He became a plantation owner on the Banda Islands, which were known for their production of nutmeg and mace – lucrative spices that fueled European trade with Asia. However, violence erupted on these islands as local inhabitants revolted against their forced labor under Dutch rule.
Overall, Pieter van den Broecke was not only an influential merchant but also had an interesting personal history tied to early global trade and exploration. His legacy is preserved through Hals’s iconic painting and his son’s involvement in shaping Dutch colonialism further demonstrates how intertwined art can be with historical events.