Het Staatse ambassadegebouw in de zeventiende eeuw. Het logement van Hendrick van Reede van Renswoude in Madrid, 1656-1669


  • Maurits Ebben



Even though Dutch historians have been investigating seventeenth-century material culture with regard to lifestyle and home furnishing extensively since the early 1980s, no such research has been done on the material world of the United Provinces’ diplomats abroad. This article seeks to provide insights into the main material cultural aspects of the seventeenth-century Dutch embassy: the building’s exterior, lay-out, and furnishing. A detailed inventory of Baron Hendrick van Reede van Renswoude’s movables, the first ambassador of the Lords States General to the Spanish court (1656-1669), is the main source for a detailed case study on the accommodations of the Dutch ambassador. His residence in Madrid, its indoor and outdoor spaces were equipped with the customary attributes of an early modern European diplomat. Although less lavish, opulent and refined than the French or Spanish, the Dutch diplomat’s material cultural world fitted in with the general diplomatic culture, which was increasingly influenced by the ethos of the nobility across Europe in the seventeenth century. At the same time, local conditions and lifestyle conventions shaped the ambassadorial building’s exterior and interior. The fact that Dutch diplomats, like almost all European diplomats,took residence in rented furnished local houses, undermined the implicit separateness of the embassy as a distinctly national space that reflected a typical lifestyle, a political or religious message.