The “Assembly of Quakers at Amsterdam” are two engravings showing Dutch Meetings for Worship in the 18th century. The worships took place in the Amsterdam Meetinghouse at 152 Keizersgracht. In the first one a Friend stands preaching while other Quakers sit around him. They are dressed as plain Friends. Onlookers, not Friends, listen. In the second one plain Quakers sit in worship, with a few non-Friends observing.
The first engraving was made by Pieter Tanjé (1706-1761), based on a painting by Louis Fabricius Dubourg (1693-1775). It appeared in D’Hurd’s Religious Rites & Ceremonies of All Nations in 1723.
The second engraving was made by Caspar Jacobsz Philips (1732-1789), based on a painting by P. Wagenaar (active 1781). It appeared c. 1780.
Dutch Friends began gathering through the efforts of the missionaries William Ames and William Caton in 1655. Converts were made, especially from the Mennonites, and Meetings were established in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. (They were known as “Kwakers”). In 1661 Dutch Friends began helping to establish German Friends Meetings, and they supported missionaries in Turkey and Algeria. By 1710 about 500 Quaker families lived in Amsterdam. They set up “infant schools” (or kindergartens) for Amsterdam children. During the 1700’s, however, many Dutch Friends emigrated to Pennsylvania and New Jersey and, in 1851, the last of them in Holland had died. Dutch Quakers began meeting again in the 1920’s, and Netherlands Yearly Meeting was established in 1931. Nowadays Meetings gather in Amsterdam, Bennekom, Den Haag, Deventer and Groningen. Famous Dutch Friends have included Jan Smet, Willem Sewel, Jan Claus, Jan de Hartog and Kees Boeke.
The “Assembly of Quakers at Amsterdam” engravings are charming. The skylight overhead indicates that James Turrell was not the first to think of installing one in a Friends Meetinghouse. It is also interesting that fewer Quakers gather in the second engraving. This, perhaps, reflects the emigration to America. Or maybe it was an off-Sunday!