De Graeff

De Graeff (Dutch pronunciation: [dəˈɣraːf]; also: Graef(f) and De Graeff van Polsbroek) is an old Dutch patrician family, which according to – unverified – family tradition descends from the Austrian Lords Von Graben. Allegedly one Wolfgang von Graben came 1483 to Holland.[1] The family was founded by Pieter Graeff (born around 1484).[2] Since 1885 the family belonging to the Dutch nobility with the honorific of jonkheer.[3]

De Graeff
Graeff / De Graeff van Polsbroek
noble and patrician family
Parent houseVon Graben
Country Netherlands
Founded15th century
FounderPieter Graeff (born 1484)
Titlesknight, jonkheer

The family have played an important role during the Dutch Golden Age. They were at the centre of Amsterdam public life and oligarchy from 1578 until 1672.[4]

The De Graeff family during the Dutch Golden Age

During the Dutch Golden Age, the De Graeff family was very critical of the influence of the House of Orange. the De Graeffs belonged to the republican political movement, also referred to as the ‘state oriented’, as opposed to the Royalists. Together with the Republican political leaders, the Bicker family and Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, the republican-minded brothers Cornelis and Andries de Graeff strived for the abolition of stadtholdership. They desired the full sovereignty of the individual regions in a form in which the Republic of the United Seven Netherlands was not ruled by a single person. Instead of a sovereign (or stadtholder) the political and military power was lodged with the States General and with the regents of the cities in Holland.[4]

During the two decades from the 1650 to the 1670s the De Graeff family had a leading role in the Amsterdam administration, the city was at the peak of its political power. This period was also referred to by Republicans as the ‘Ware Vrijheid’ (True Freedom). It was the First Stadtholderless Period which lasted from 1650 to 1672 during these twenty years, the regents from Holland and in particular those of Amsterdam, controlled the republic. The city was flush with self-confidence and liked to compare itself to the famous Republic of Rome. Even without a stadtholder, things seemed to be going well for the Republic and its regents both politically and economically.[4]

In early 1671, Andries de Graeff was once again put forward as chief-mayor (regent) and managed to gain control with his Republican faction. During the winter of that year it seemed as if – at least in Amsterdam – the Republicans were winning. It was an exceptionally opportune moment to commission a monumental ceiling painting on Amsterdam’s independent position for the ‘Sael’ of his mayor’s residence. De Graeff had a clear message in mind for the ceiling painting: the ‘Ware Vrijheid’ of the Republic was only protected by the Republican regents of Amsterdam. The paintings by Gerard de Lairesse glorify the de Graeff family’s role as the protector of the Republican state, defender of ‘Freedom’. The work of art can be viewed as a visual statement opposing the return of House of Orange as Stadtholders of the republic.[4]

In Rampjaar 1672, when the Orangists took power again, the De Graeffs lost their position as one of the key States party families.[5] In 1677, Andries de Graeff's only son, Cornelis, became a knight of the Holy Roman Empire. They traced their descent from Wolfgang von Graben, member of the Austrian noble House of Graben von Stein,[1] which was an apparent (or illegitimate) branch of the House of Meinhardin.[6][7] Diplom loaned to Mr. Andries de Graeff, July 19, 1677:

Fide digis itegur genealogistarum Amsteldamensium edocti testimoniis te Andream de Graeff non paternum solum ex pervetusta in Comitatu nostro Tyrolensi von Graben dicta familia originem ducere, qua olim per quendam ex ascendentibus tuis ejus nominis in Belgium traducta et in Petrum de Graeff, abavum, Johannem, proavum, Theodorum, avum, ac tandem Jacobum, patrem tuum, viros in civitate, Amstelodamensi continua serie consulatum scabinatus senatorii ordinis dignitabitus conspicuos et in publicum bene semper meritos propagata nobiliter et cum splendore inter suos se semper gessaerit interque alios honores praerogativasque nobilibus eo locorum proprias liberum venandi jus in Hollandia, Frisiaque occidentale ac Ultrajectina provinciis habuerit semper et exercuerit.[8]

The family's role as patrons of the arts

A big accomplishment of the De Graeff were in the sponsorship of art and architecture. The De Graeffs were responsible for the majority of Amsterdam art during their reign in the Dutch Golden Age.[5] Andries de Graeff, the first patron of the arts in the family, aided Rembrandt and, together with his brother Cornelis de Graeff, commissioned Govert Flinck, Artus Quellinus and Jacob Jordaens for the construction of the city hall on the Dam in 1655. Andries de Graeffs notable artistic associates were Rembrandt, Gerard ter Borch, Flinck, and Jan Lievens. Andries brother Cornelis continued in the family tradition of patronizing artists. He would chiefly commission works from Jacob van Ruisdael, Nicolaes Eliaszoon Pickenoy, Quellinus, Flinck and Caspar Netscher. They were well known to have been the patrons of the poets Joost van den Vondel, Jan Vos, Caspar Barlaeus und Gerard Brandt.[1]

In 1660 Andries and his brother Cornelis de Graeff organized the Dutch Gift.[5] That Gift was a collection of 28 mostly Italian Renaissance paintings and 12 classical sculptures, which was presented to King Charles II of England by the States-General of the Netherlands in 1660.[9] The collection was given to Charles II to mark his return to power in the English Restoration. The De Graeffs thought that can intended to strengthen diplomatic relations between England and the Republic, but only a few years after the gift the two nations would be at war again in the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665–67.

Cornelis' son Pieter de Graeff for example was also a man who surrounded himself with art and beauty. He was an art collector and patron to the artists Ter Borch, Lievens, Karel Dujardin, Romeyn de Hooghe, Netscher and the poet Van den Vondel. Prof. C.W. Fock of the University of Leiden describes in her work - Het stempel van de bewoner [10] - Pieter de Graeffs art-collection and lifestyle.

Family members (Amsterdam line)

  • Pieter Graeff (born around 1484/85), the earliest known member of the De Graeff family
    • Jan Pietersz Graeff (1512–1553), member of the vroedschap and advisor of Amsterdam, cloth merchant and dealer
      • Lenaert Jansz de Graeff (1530/35 - before 1578), one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation at Amsterdam, friend of the "Grote Geus" Henry, Count of Bréderode; Lenaert Jansz de Graeff could be ident with "Monseigneur de Graeff", a captain of the Sea Beggars during the Capture of Brielle.
      • Diederik Jansz. Graeff (1532–1589), mayor of Amsterdam, merchant; Graeff was also a friend of William the Silent, Prince of Orange.
        • Jacob Dircksz de Graeff (1570–1638), was an illustrious member of the De Graeff family; regent and mayor of Amsterdam, lord of the semisouverain fief Zuid-polsbroek, lord of the manor of Sloten, Osdorp and Amstelveen.
          • Cornelis de Graeff (1599–1664), was the most illustrious member of the De Graeff family; regent and mayor of Amsterdam, lord of the semi-sovereign fief Zuid-polsbroek, lord of the manor of Sloten and Amstelveen, President of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC); illustrious Patron and Art collector.
            • Pieter de Graeff (1638–1707), regent of Amsterdam, lord of the semi-sovereign fiefs of Zuid-polsbroek, Purmerland and Ilpendam, President or Chairman of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), friend, advicor to his cousin Johan de Witt.
              • Cornelis de Graeff II. (1671–1719), lord of the semi-sovereign fief Purmerland and Ilpendam.
              • Johan de Graeff (1673–1714), advisor of Amsterdam, lord of the semi-sovereign fief Zuid-polsbroek.
                • Gerrit de Graeff (I.) van Zuid-Polsbroek (1711–1752), regent of Amsterdam, lord of the semi-sovereign fiefs of Zuid-polsbroek, Purmerland and Ilpendam, one of the Chairmans of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) and the Dutch West Indies Company (WIC).
                  • Gerrit de Graeff II. (1741–1811), regent of Amsterdam, lord of the (semi-sovereign) fiefs of Zuid-polsbroek, Purmerland and Ilpendam.
                    • Gerrit de Graeff (III.) van Zuid-Polsbroek (1766–1814), lord of the fiefs of Zuid-polsbroek, Purmerland and Ilpendam.
                      • Gerrit de Graeff (IV.) van Zuid-Polsbroek (1797–1870), lord of the fiefs of Zuid-polsbroek, Purmerland and Ilpendam, advisor of the city of Amsterdam.
                        • Gerrit Arnold Theodoor de Graeff (born 1831)
                          • Henry George de Graeff van Polsbroek (1858–1941), member of the South African De Graeff-family
                        • Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek (1833–1916), Diplomat, Generalconsul and Dutch minister in Japan. He was the most important representative of the Dutch government and played a major part in the many negotiations between Japan and various Western countries. De Graeff van Polsbroek was advisor to Japanese Emperor Meiji and laid the foundation stone for a modern western (European) diplomacy in Japan.
                          • Andries Cornelis Dirk de Graeff (1872–1958), Governor General of Dutch East Indies, Dutch minister for foreign affairs.
                            • Jacob de Graeff (born 1921)
                              • Jan Jaap de Graeff (born 1949), dijkgraaf of Schieland, chamberlain of the Dutch queen, director of the Dutch unie for water
                          • Géorg de Graeff (1873–1954)
                            • Dirk Georg de Graeff (1905–1986), chamberlain of the Dutch queens and managing director from the Algemene Bank Nederland
            • Jacob de Graeff (1642–1690), advisor of Amsterdam, lord of the semi-sovereign fief Purmerland and Ilpendam.
          • Dirk de Graeff (1601–1637), advisor of Amsterdam
          • Agneta de Graeff van Polsbroek (1603–1656), mother in law of Johan de Witt.
          • Wendela de Graeff (1607–1652), painted by Rembrandt van Rijn at his masterpiece Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph
          • Andries de Graeff (1611–1678), had together with his brother Cornelis the leading role in the Amsterdam and Holland administration; minister of finances, regent and mayor of Amsterdam, lord of the manor of Urk and Emmeloord; illustrious Patron and Art collector.
        • Pieter Dircksz Graeff (1573–1645), lord of Engelenburg, member of the vroedschap of Amsterdam, visited the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
      • Jacob Jansz Graeff (died ca 1580)
        • Jan Jacobsz Graeff (born ca 1570/75)
          • Claes Jansz Graeff

Family lines

  • Amsterdam line (main line), includes the Lords of Polsbroek, Purmerland and ilpendam; later in Den Haag (19th century)
  • Line at Ablasserdam[11]
  • According to the Rietstap Armorial Général there is an identical De Graeff (De Graaff) coat of arms of Dutch origin located in ancient Prussia (Germany)[12][13]
  • South African line (founded in 1850)[14]

See also



  • Bruijn, J. H. De. Genealogie van het geslacht De Graeff van Polsbroek 1529/1827.
  • Burke, P. (1994). Venice and Amsterdam: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Élites.
  • Graeff, P. De (P. de Graeff Gerritsz en Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek). Genealogie van de familie De Graeff van Polsbroek Amsterdam 1882.
  • Israel, Jonathan I. (1995). The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477–1806. Clarendon Press, Oxford, ISBN 978-0-19-820734-4
  • Rowen, Herbert H. (1986). John de Witt" Statesman of the "True Freedom". Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-52708-2
  • Zandvliet, Kees. De 250 rijksten van de Gouden Eeuw - Kapitaal, macht, familie en levensstijl (2006 Amsterdam; Nieuw Amsterdam Uitgevers)
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