The Dutch Virgin

Symbols of State of the Netherlands



The Dutch Virgin sitting in the Dutch Garden, crowned with a mural crown and keeping Victoria in her hand [1]

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In the symbolism of state the sovereign is usually represented by his  imago, that is his portrait in full official dress together with the regalia symbolizing his authorities.

When sovereignty rests with a collectivity it is represented by an allegory traditionally in the form of a female figure bearing attributes symbolizing her identity.

Such allegories have a long tradition beginning in egyptian and mesopotamian antiquity.


Female allegories representing the Upper- and the Lower Nile

On the throne of Sesostris I (1971-‘28 BC)


Rulers and their emblems

Rock relief at Maltai, carved on the cliff-face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road leading from Assyria to the Upper Zab valley.

The assyrian king, probably Sennacherib (r. 704-681 BC), flanks a procession of seven princes on their animals, probably Aššur, Mulissu, Enlil or Sîn, Nabű, Šamaš, Adad and Ištar.


As these assyrian princes were concrete enough, the hellenistic goddess Athena personifying the sovereign people of Athens is merely an abstraction. She is represented dressed in chiton and has a spear in her hand. Her coat of arms is decorated with the monstruous head of Medusa making her the supreme commander of the nation. 

Later Athena was copied by many other virgins like Roma and Constantinople for example. In the early middle ages she became the allegories of Gallia, Germania and Slavonia for counterparts.

The most untouchable sovereign of the european middle ages became the Virgin Mary who was chosen as a sovereign of several would-be sovereign communities. An example of this is the city of Genoa who proclaimed the Virgin Mary its queen on 25 March 1637. [2]


The Dutch Virgin has her predecessor in the Virgin Mary who acted as the patron saint of the countess of Holland on her seal.

Athena / Minerva

Reconstruction 1991 (Coll. Schloß Wilhelmhöhe, Kassel)


In the roman era copies of famous greek original works of art served as decorations in private and public buildings and gardens. This reconstruction of the statue-type “Athena-Lemnia”is based on the famous roman original in Dresden. Painting made by H.D. Tylle.


The Dutch Virgin is usually represented as a lady in classical dress, sometimes with a spear and a shield after the example of the goddess Athena. She can be regarded as the personification of the Dutch Nation. Logically she cannot be older than the moment when a Dutch Nation came into existence. This was about the middle of the 16th century.

As illustrated the idea of a virgin as an allegory of a (urban-) community is borrowed from antiquity. In the renaissance a virgin as a symbol of an urban community underwent a revival first as the Virgin Mary with the child but later as a lady in classical dress after ancient examples. [3] An early example of such an allegory can be found in the Church of St. John in Gouda. On the famous stained windows of this church, made in the middle of the 16th century, there is on Glass 3 a representation of a Virgin sitting within a flowery garden surrounded by a fence with a gate. She is crowned with a wreath of flowers and has a palm-leaf in her right. In her left hand she keeps the shield of Dordrecht. The Garden also called the Dutch Garden goes back to the Order of the Dutch Garden founded at the end of the 14th century by William of Ostervant, a son of duke Albrecht of Bavaria. [4] In the middle of the 16th century this Garden was used not only in Holland but also in Flanders an so we can suppose that with the Virgin on the stained window in Gouda is meant the Dordrecht Virgin for sure but maybe also the Dutch Virgin. [5]


The Dutch Virgin keeping up the arms of Dordrecht.

Stained window in the Church of St. John, Gouda 1555 ca.


An important source for the study of the Dutch Virgin is numismatics. Here the Dutch Virgin appears on a counting-penny from Holland of 1573. The virgin is also seated here within the Garden but she has a sword instead of a palm-leaf in her hand. The wreath of flowers is replaced by a hat of liberty.

Penny from Holland, 1573

Showing the Dutch Virgin within a Garden.


With this virgin most certainly the Dutch Virgin is meant because the legend reads libertas patrić (Freedom for the Fatherland) [6].  This “Fatherland” is at least Holland and Zeeland but more probable all rebelling provinces. The difference between them is, because of the supremacy of Holland, not always clear.

The Dutch Virgin was not represented in the dutch context as long a monarchy, and indeed the Habsburg monarchy existed in the Netherlands. Instead all provinces had their own Virgin which was represented when their loyalty to the ruling house had to be illustrated (in the way of the princes of Sennacherib). So, the Dutch Virgin was only represented in the rebelling provinces and after the renouncement of  the monarchy when no other monarch had been found.

After some time however, when the stadholders of the house of Orange-Nassau had become quasi rulers of the United Provines, the Dutch Virgin seems to have disappeared and replaced by the imagos of the stadholders.

This changed when after the coup of William II against Amsterdam in 1650, the office of stadholder was abolished. Some commemorative medals were struck showing the Dutch Virgin [7]. She also appeared on publications about the Republic.

The Dutch Virgin between Mars and Mercurius, at her feet the Dutch Lion.


                                                                The Dutch Virgin dressed for war, 1660   

(N.H. Church, Biervliet)


This Dutch Virgin is represented together with the arms of William III


After the rstoration of the office of stadholder in 1672 the Dutch Virgin dnot disappear. Instead she rceived an official status when she was represented on the obverse of silver 3-guilder pieces.


Silver 3 guilder-piece, introduced by Holland, 1681



The Dutch Virgin on this coin replaces For a part the representation of a warrior in armour, armed with a sword who symbolized the constable of the Republic, i.e. the supreme commander or captain admiral general of the Republic in the person of the (Orange-Nassau) stadholder. [8]

In this case the Dutch Virgin is dressed in a (baroque) chiton and wears a plumed helmet (in the national colors). In her right she has a spear crested with a Hat of Liberty and with her left she leans on a bible placed on an altar. The legend reads hac nitimur hanc tvemvr (This [liberty] we defend and on this [belief] we rest). The Garden was left out and did not return. [9]

By decree of 17 March 1694 coins of 3, 1 and ˝ guilders were minted on which was the same representation and the same legend. On the reverse are the crowned arms of the Republic as before. These coins were struck until 1800. [10]


When the Audience Hall of the States General (the so-called Trčves Hall) was renewed by Daniel Marot in 1697, the Dutch Virgin came on a chimney piece on the SW-side below the achievement of the Republic. She was facing the portrait of William III on the other side.

By this painting the upgrading of the Dutch Virgin to an official status was confirmed.

At some time in history the original painting was replaced by another one, also representing the Dutch Virgin but accompanied by two other female allegories. That painting is still in the Trčves Hall but has only a historical meaning (no picture available).






Ĺ  Dutch Virgin in the Trčves Hall, 1697

By Daniel Marot


The Dutch Virgin in the Hall of the Corporation of the Town Hall of Amsterdam

By J. de Wit, 1738 ca Ć


This Virgin, with the Hat of Liberty on a spear in her right and leaning on a Holy Bible on an altar, was the model for the Dutch Virgin as adopted by the Batavian Republic in 1795.



























At the end of the 18th century when the authority of the stadholder was contested, the Dutch Virgin was represented together with the stadholder concluding a kind of social agreement (Contrat Social).


William V and the Batavian Liberty.

Engraving by Reinier Vinkeles

 after J. Buys for J. le Francq van Berkhey: De zeetriumph der Bataafsche Vrijheid, 1782


the verses read:

With you Goddess, like my ancestors, I will venture

My goods, my blood and myself for the benefit of the country

My sword is for you when you must be protected

Be it at Scheldt or Maas or at the free river Rhine


For the occasion the Dutch Virgin is represented with helmet, spear and a shield charged with the emblem of the Republic being a bundle of arrows tied with a ribbon. In other instances however she was represented in a less martial attitude


The Dutch Virgin (before 1784)

Coll. Museum Sypesteyn, Loosdrecht

Seated with a plumed hat and a spear crested with the Hat of Liberty (missing) supported by the Dutch Lion and a little boy upholding the republican symbol. At her feet the Holy Bible. 


After the revolution of 1795 the Dutch Virgin was promoted to the National Emblem, meaning that the dutch people was the sovereign of the Netherlands.


The Dutch Virgin 1795

Johannes Jelgerhuis (Coll. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)


In the first days of the revolution the Dutch Virgin was of french design. Nevertheless she bore a Hat of Liberty on her spear instead of a Phrygian cap like in France. On this engraving she is accompanied by the clasped hands of Brotherhood and the plumb line of Equality. On her shield is the inscription Rechten van den Mensch en Burger (Human and Civilian Rights / Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen).


Shortly afterwards however when a new emblem for the Republic had to be designed, she was adapted to her former fashion by restoring the Holy Bible on the altar and the Dutch Lion at her feet:

Seal of the Batavian Republic, 1796 [11]


On the altar came an anchor and a dolphin, symbol of the shipping trade.


Ć See also: The arms of State / Sovereigns:  De Bataafsche Republiek


The Dutch Virgin disappeared in the time of the Kingdom of Holland and the Kingdom of the Netherlands from officiality. She was replaced by the usual portrait of the sovereign.

Nevertheless the Dutch Virgin was revived now and then.


Model of “Eendracht” for the monument on Dam Square, Amsterdam

By Louis Royer. (Coll. Amsterdam Museum)


To the memory of the Ten Days Campaign of 1830, a monument was erected in 1856 on Dam square in Amsterdam topped by the Dutch Virgin. In official documents she was called “Eendracht” (Unity) but soon she was nicknamed “Naatje van de Dam” which is a pun on the name Wilhemina (of Prussia, the name of both the Queen mother (1751-1820) and the Queen (1774-1837) and a name of the female sexual organs in dutch. Because this monument created opposition after the political relations with Belgium were normalised, it was demolished in 1914. The sculpture was for sometime in the garden of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam but it was not seen there anymore after 1938. [12]


Monument for the Kingdom, Plein 1813, The Hague (1869)


Another Dutch Virgin can still be seen on top of the monument for the Kingdom on Plein 1813 in The Hague. This monument dates fom 1869 and has been erected in honour of William Frederick, the later King William I.

On the lowest register are scenes from the life of William Frederick. On the second register are the arms of the provinces (and the arms of the Sovereign Principality) and on top is the Dutch Virgin with a bundle of arrows and the national flag (no Hat of Liberty). At her feet is the Dutch Lion.


A last but not least representation of the Dutch Virgin can be found in the work of T. van der Laars.


T. van der Laars: The Dutch Virgin 1913.



The demolition of ‘Naatje van de Dam’, 1914

(Gemeentearchief Amsterdam)


After her inglorious dismissal the Dutch Virgin still occurs as an allegory on polical prints now and then.  In fact however, she died a sweet death and she is not a part of the more or less official symbolism of state any more. [13]



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© Hubert de Vries 2013-01-16. Updated 2014-06-21; 2014-08-31



[1] Battle of Nieuwpoort on 2 july 1600. engraving from 1602 of Floris Balthasar (1562 ca - 1616). Atlas van  Stolk nr. 1084. U.B.Leiden COLLBN 009-14-004. On both sides two lions armed with swords and shields charged with bundles of arrows tied with ribbons, hanging on spears crested with hats of liberty. Detail of an engraving of the Battle of Nieuwpoort, 1600 by  Floris Balthasar. In the head of the engraving the achievement of state and the arms of the army of Prince Maurice.

[2] Fabio, Clario di: La regina della Repubblica e la “Madonna della Cittá”.  In: El Siglo de los Genoveses. Milano, 1999.  Pp. 258-261

[3] For example on the seal of  Jacoba of Bavaria 1428-’32 (A.R.A. Den Haag) as illustrated above

[4] Tol, D. van: De Orde van de Hollandsche Tuin. De oudste ridderorde van Holland (1387-1418). In: De Nederlandsche Leeuw, 1997, kol 6-34.

[5] Winter, P.J. van: De Hollandse Tuin. In: Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek. 8 (1957) pp. 29-121.

[6]  Van Loon: Nederlandsche Historipenningen.

[7]  Van Loon Historipenningen Dl. 2. Boek IIII, pp. 344, 348, 349.

[8]  A matter of research would be the relation with the first Stadholderless Era (1650-1672).

[9]  The Garden was only on the small emblem of the States of Holland from 1795 until 1806.

[10]  Enno van Gelder p. 227 , n°s 12, 13, 14.  The minting of these coins was decided on 26 April 1679 to reorganize the finaces of the Republic. Initially the lion of the Generality was on the reverse  „but already in 1681 by uncertain initiative the lion was replaced by the figure of Pallas standing upright [...] only later the Pallas was interpreted as the Virgin of Holland or the Dutch Virgin. (p. 143)

[11]  Vries, H. de: Wapens van de Nederlanden, Amsterdam, 1995,  pp. 38-39, 195. In the decision of the State General of 04.05.1795 the Dutch Virgin is called  „De Vrijheid” (Liberty)

[12]  Beunders, Henri: ’t Is Naatje. Een pokdalige herinnering. In: Sas, N.C.E. van, red.: Waar de Blanke Top der Duinen en andere Vaderlandse Herinneringen. Amsterdam/Antwerpen 1995, pp. 91 -105. The faschist NSB had made up plans to restore the monument to give new impetus to the national feeling: Goldschmidt, Tijs: Juffrouw Eendracht. De betekenis van Naatje op de Dam. In: NRC-Handelsblad, 3 jan. 2003 p. 19.

[13]  Other representations of the Dutch Virgin:  Jan de Bray: Frederick Henry with Prosperity and the Dutch Virgin, 1681. Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem. The Dutch Virgin with a shield charged with the bundle of arrows of the Council of State. In the Hall of the Corporation in the Town Hall of Amsterdam by J. de Wit, ca. 1738. From the town hall of ’s Hertogenbosch by N.F. Knip, 1795. Van der Laars, T.: Wapens Vlaggen en Zegels, 1913 / 1930 fig. facing p. 148.