Dirk Valkenburg (1675-1721), "Slave Play" on a Sugar Plantation in Surinam, 1706-08
The scene is from the Dutch colony of Surinam (Dutch Guyana, South America), where Valkenburg stayed in 1706-08.
He was commissioned to work for a merchant from Amsterdan, Jonas Witsen, who owned three plantations in Surinam. The original plan was for Valkenburg to work for the plantation owner as an accountant and artist for four years, creating drawings and paintings that depicted daily life and the scenery at the plantations. Sickness prompted him to abandon his stay after two years, and only few paintings from the Surinam years survive.
The painting shows a party at the Palmeneribo plantation. Valkenburg focuses on the social life of the slaves, who are not depicted as stereotypes, but as distinct individuals. Valkenburg undoubtedly used the plantation slaves as models.
By: Eva de la Fuente Pedersen