Title   Postbood (Search for the image)
Translated title Postman
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a postman (`postbode’)

Code of occupational group 37030
Description A postrider stands on a country road with his legs stretched apart. He holds a wrapped package under his right arm, and a box under his left. Suspended from both hands are mail bags or pouches with draw strings. The postman wears a soft cap; has a stout cape wrapped around his shoulders, tied at the throat; and has a chain with the badge of his office hanging around his neck. In the background at the left, a second postrider is standing next to a horse.

Mail, packages, and newsletters were transported across the Netherlands by postriders on horses and by barges, in-land ferries, and sailboats. Riders followed regular routes, coordinating their departures to tides and ferry schedules. Indeed, the rider from Amsterdam went part of the way to Lisse where he exchanged letters and packages with the postman from The Hague and both returned to their respective cities. Mail from The Hague traveled to Rotterdam and Delft. Overseas mail also passed from ship to ship in Rotterdam harbor on the Maas, and was deposited in an anchored boat. Mail was brought to shore by launch, to be picked up and transported by the postman.

    The theme of the postrider was not explored by other 17th-century Dutch artists, although there are many paintings showing people writing, receiving, and reading letters and, in some cases, entrusting a letter to a messenger. See Thomas de Keyser's 1627 "Constantin Huygens and his Secretary" (National Gallery, London) or Gerard ter Borch's 1658 "Officer Writing a Letter with a Trumpeter" (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Hendrick Avercamp's drawing of a sled used by a driver to deliver mail during the winter when the lakes had frozen is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Once delivered, newsletters were sometimes read aloud in taverns, as can be sen in Andries Andriesz. Schaeck's "The Latest News" (New Orleans Museum of Art). The postman was included as number 63 in the 1646 publication of etchings based on Amiibale Carracei.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

  • See Paul Zumthor's Daily Life in Rembrandt's Holland, translated from French into English by Simon Watson Taylor.

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