Piet Heyn monument (1870) Joseph Graven

Otto Snoek
About the artwork

Piet Heyn (1577-1629) was a skilled seafarer and naval commander. He was known for being sober, resourceful, fearless and skilled in the trade. With those qualities he first entered the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Later he was given command of a number of West India Company (WIC) missions. On the high seas - often in war situations and surrounded by piracy - the Delfshavenaar displayed a remarkable leniency. Heyn respected the Spanish enemy (he had spent nearly ten years in captivity), spoke with compassion about the fate of Africans, and denounced the treatment of enslaved Indians in America: 'Is it any wonder that the Indian avenge his suffering on us? Friendship must come from our side, for we visit them - they have not visited us. Let us see to it that we do not provoke God's anger by being guilty of improper actions and conduct. ' Heyn had nothing to do with the slave trade. Only six years after Heyn's death, the WIC said goodbye to the commandment that "slave trade is an illegal form of trade for Christians."
However, Piet Heyn does not thank his statue for this exceptional reputation. It was the conquest of the 'Silver fleet' that established its name for good. Heyn managed to hijack some Spanish ships that were loaded with silver from American mines. Although the conquest did not amount to much (cowardice had fled the Spanish enemy), winning the booty in the Netherlands was considered a heroic act. The enormous capital (almost 12 million guilders - converted to about half a billion euros now) belonged to the WIC, its shareholders and Stadholder Prince Frederik Hendrik. Heyn was annoyed by the tribute that followed, including banquets, songs and verses from top poets such as Vondel and Huygens. Because his real achievements, such as the raid on the Brazilian port city of San Salvador, were not discussed. On 17 June 1629, he was meanwhile appointed admiral of the Dutch navy, was hit by a cannonball, shot from a ship with hijackers from Ostend. Heyn died instantly.
In memory of Heyn, centenary celebrations took place in the then still independent municipality of Delfshaven, and many poem was written here. In 1867 he even got a snow-made statue, but the thaw ended the initiative after five days. This was followed by the call for a real picture. That also came. The monument, made by sculptor Jos Graven (1836-1877), was initially placed near the place where Piet Heyn saw the first light (Piet Heynsplein). The unveiling was performed by King William III. Since 1886, when Delfshaven was added to Rotterdam, the statue has been part of the Rotterdam city collection. In 1966 the monument moved to the current location.

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About the artist

Joseph Graven ('s-Hertogenbosch, 1836 - Rotterdam, 1877) was a Dutch sculptor. He worked successively in Munich, 's-Hertogenbosch (1863 - 1875) and Rotterdam. He made sculptures for St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch and wooden statues for Hilversum's St. Vitus Church. For the Piet Heynsplein in Rotterdam, he made a statue of the naval hero Piet Heyn, which was unveiled by King Willem III on October 17, 1870. The statue is now a national monument.

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