Groeninx van Zoelen albums

 Albums Groeninx van Zoelen

The RKD has recently been gifted no fewer than fourteen nineteenth-century photo albums by Jonkvrouw Anna Katharina Groeninx van Zoelen to add to its portrait iconography collection. Besides photographs of her ancestors, the albums also contain portraits from more than fifty other noble families.

Albums with cartes-de-visite

Collecting portrait photographs became a popular pastime in the nineteenth century, thanks to the development of the so-called 'carte-de-visite': a small portrait photo with a standard size of approximately 165 x 105 mm. The cards were collected in albums that were specifically designed for this purpose. Quite an expensive hobby in the nineteenth century, and therefore initially one that was mainly open to the higher echelons. The fourteen albums received by the RKD were once owned by Jonkvrouw Agneta Hendrika van de Poll (1857-1933), dame-du-palais and senior lady-in-waiting to Queen Wilhelmina, and her husband, Jonkheer mr. Frédéric Willem Eduard Groeninx van Zoelen (1844-1922). Of this couple, both parents and grandparents are represented in these albums – those who did not die before 1860 that is, as prior to this date, cartes-de-visite hardly existed in the Netherlands. The portraits the albums contain were mostly made by the early the Hague photographers Robert Severin, Maurits Verveer, Henri Pronk, and later De Lavieter & Co.

 Albums Groeninx van Zoelen
1. Album Groeninx van Zoelen II
2. Henri Pronk, Portrait of Agneta Hendrika van de Poll (1857-1933), The Hague, c. 1864-1866, carte-de-visite in album II
3. Ferdinand Mulnier, Portrait of Agneta Clasina Catharina van Stralen (1804-1871) and Willem Gerrit van de Poll (1793-1872), Paris, pre-1871, carte-de-visite

Royal Household

The Groeninx van Zoelen-van de Poll couple had an extensive family, whose members held important positions at court – functions which were passed on to the next generation. Agneta's grandmother Deutz van Assendelft-Rendorp and her aunt Deutz van Assendelft-van Lennep were senior lady-in-waiting to Queen Sophie and dame-du-palais to Queen Emma respectively. Frédéric's mother, Aurelia Elisabeth Countess of Limburg Stirum, was dame-du-palais to Queen Sophie. That is why the portraits in the albums show a great many representatives of the royal household from the second half of the nineteenth century. The earliest albums contain a veritable collection of family members, acquaintances and 'colleagues' – which in the Groeninx van Zoelen family more or less amounted to the same thing. Albums that were typical for men, with portraits of professors and fellow-students, or albums received in the wake of social functions, no doubt existed as well but are not represented in this collection.

From prestige to family

The albums are also interesting from a photo-historical perspective. The older albums are small and contain only one photograph per page. From the dates and persons depicted it is evident that the earlier albums were compiled by a previous generation. It is only in later albums that an emphasis on the private family becomes more common. That photography eventually became easier and less costly is especially clear from the photographs taken after 1880. Whereas previously photographs of children were a rarity, after this date it was apparently no problem to fill an entire album with the four Groeninx van Zoelen-van de Poll children. One of them was Reinier Frédéric Otto Groeninx van Zoelen, grandfather of the albums' donor. The only daughter born to the couple was given the name Adolphine Agneta. She was later to become senior lady-in-waiting to Queen Juliana and passed on the albums to the next generation.

 Albums Groeninx van Zoelen
1. Arthur James Melhuish, Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Yorke, possibly John Reginald Yorke (1836-1912) and Sophia Matilda Bilitonia barones van Tuyll van Serooskerken (1850-1905), London, c. 1865-1875, carte-de-visite
2. Maurits Verveer, Portrait of Alfred Montaldo Boreel (1849-1912) (right) and an unknown man, The Hague, c. 1870-1877, cabinet card photo
3. Album Groeninx van Zoelen XI

Collection of the RKD

The RKD maintains an extensive collection of cartes-de-visite, but it has only one album that is comparable. This album is tellingly referred to as the 'album from Queen Sophie's circle', because the previous owner is unknown. Until now, a similar selection of court-circle portraits whose source is traceable was missing in the RKD's collection. This donation provides a magnificent addition to it. What is more, with their depictions of nineteenth-century court members, the albums of the Groeninx van Zoelen family may also play an important role in identifying other portraits of the nobility. In future, anyone who is interested in leafing through these splendid albums, will be able to do so digitally.