A rather bleak painting ascribed to Jan de Baen, depicting a famous historical event in Dutch history (full title: The corpses of the de Witt brothers, Jan and Cornelis, hanging on the Groene Zoodje on the Vijverberg).
The figure in the lower right corner is apparently shining light on the nighttime scene to illuminate it for the artist.
Via La Muse Verte.
Addendum: MJ Valente found the following information at the website of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam:
"De Witt held a key position in Dutch politics, being a kind of Prime Minister avant la lettre. In that role, he was repeatedly in conflict with the Orange faction, led by Prince William III of Orange (later King of England during the so-called Glorious Revolution), who felt menaced in his authority. When De Witt came to power, a collective aversion to monarchical power dominated among the Dutch people. But things changed in 1672, the ‘Disaster Year’, when the Dutch Republic was attacked by a large alliance of hostile countries. Popular feeling suddenly turned in favor of William III, and mistrust grew against Johann de Witt and his brother Cornelis.And Rob from Amersfoort adds the following:
The latter, who was also an influential political figure, got imprisoned in The Hague on false accusations of treason. On 20 August 1672, when Johan was visiting his brother in prison, the brothers were dragged out of the building and lynched outside by an angry mob. The rage seemed to be spontaneous, but was in fact well-organized and planned by Orangist militiamen. The frenzy was so immense that the De Witts were not just killed, but literally ripped apart by the inflamed mass. Body parts like heart and fingers were removed to be exposed as souvenirs, while other parts were roasted and eaten(!) by the hysterical crowd, in a bizarre outburst of cannibalism. Their corpses were eventually hung upside down on a scaffold nearby. The disgusting sight was captured in this dark painting, whose artist (attributed to Jan de Baen) seems to have witnessed the lynching and presents us his gruesome experience in this early form of visual journalism."
1672 was indeed called the Year of Disaster, when The Netherlands where attacked by England, France ànd Germany.There is significant discussion of this painting in the Comments.
The scaffold was located near the prison where Johan's brother was held (the Gevangenpoort, a building with a city gate, it still exists). On the other side of the road the Dutch center of government (the Binnenhof) is located (with the parliament and the office of the PM).
I wrote a essay about Johan de Witt when I was in high school. Watching this scene always makes me feel sad, he was a good man. This is an example of what happens when people are stirred up by populists. Remarkable is that in 2002 the same thing happened at the same location after a famous politician was shot; a crowd of angry people gathered near the Binnenhof, ready to lynch the first politician they would see ...
NB the head of the first Dutch PM, a man born in Amersfoort, was chopped of inside the Binnenhof, after he was falsely accused by the ruling prince of Orange. The latter was the grand-uncle of prince Willem III who stirred up the lynch mob in 1672. Later Willem III became king of England, so for him it worked out fine.
Reposted from 2009 for "Dutch Treat Day" 2014.