[ Index ]       [ Help ] [ Terug ]       [ Verder ]

The Hooftman Family: Jean De Castro's most Precious Patron

In the 1590s when he resided in Cologne, De Castro composed three books of chansons for Cornille, Marguerite and Beatrice, children of the successful merchant Gillis Hooftman (+1581) and Margareta van Nispen (see Table IV nrs. 20, 21, and 27). Margareta was Gillis' third wife. Marten De Vos made a painting of the couple, giving 1570 as the wedding year. De Vos also decorated Hooftman's house in Antwerp with murals.

Gillis Hooftman (1520/23-1581): Businessman and Patron

Born in Eupen (then Germany), Gillis Hooftman settled in Antwerp in 1547. He became a merchant of international stature. He was a timbre merchant, banker, entrepreneur, navigation expert, owner of more than a hundred ships which docked at Baltic as well as North African ports, pioneer of the Dutch trade on the White Sea, member on English crews with connections at the Elisabethan Court, financier who paid for the travels and path-breaking atlas of Abraham Ortelius, promotor of the painter Marten De Vos and the mathematician Michiel Coignet, and member of the City Council of Antwerp at the end of the 1570s.

He was a friend and fellow supporter of William of Orange, and backed the operations of the Geuzen (revolutionaries allied with the Protestant cause) in the rebellion against Spain, providing them with money, arms, and provisions. In 1566 his name appeared on the list of "riches calvinistes" of Antwerp to be persecuted. However, when relations between Catholic and Protestant sides slightly relaxed, Gillis Hooftman became member of the City Council of Antwerp.
During the Spanish Fury in November 1576 Antwerp was destroyed by rioting Spanish soldiers. In 1577 the Burgomaster and Aldermen ordered all members of the City Council, including Gillis Hooftman, to estimate the damage, and look for means to increase the incomes of the city and curtail the expences:


"Alzoe, midts diverssche pregnante redenen ... ist dat myne Heeren Borgemeesteren ende Schepenen daertoe hebben gecommitteert Heeren Jannen van Schoonhoven, Buyten-Burgemeestere, Meesteren Pauwels Schuermans ende Janne de Poirtere, Tresories, Janne van Steenwinckele, Rentmeestere, Meester Ingelbrecht Masius, Pensionnaris, Meester Hendrik de Moy, Secretaris, Gilles Hoffman, Jacques van Ywerven, Jan van Hove ende Vincent de Smit, adjoincten, om ... den voors. staet te oversiene ende te examineren, ende voorts te adviseren opde middelen daermede men het innecommen vander stadt ten hoochsten sal mogen brengen ende het vuytgeven besnyden ende alle noodeloose lasten ende oncosten affbreken."


"Thus, for several urgent reasons ... the Burgomaster and the Alderman have commissioned Sir Jannen van Schoonhoven, external Burgomaster, Master Pauwels Schuermans and Master Janne de Poirtere, Treasurer, Janne van Steenwinkele, Steward, Master Ingelbrecht Masius, Pensionary, Master Hendrik de Moy, Secratary, Gilles Hoffman, Jacques van Ywerven, Jan van Hove ende Vincent de Smit, adjuncts, to ... supervise and examine the said state, and to advise on the means to maximize the incomes of the city and curtail the expences, and avoid every unnecessary expenditure."

Antwerp, City Archive, PK 552, fol. 53v, 5 November 1577

Hooftman assembled an enormous fortune. When he died, the value of his real estate was estimated at 82.252 guilders, an exceptionally high figure at that time. He owned several houses in the city. His family lived in his house in the "Bourg" next to his ware houses known as the "Groote gans" ("Great Goose").

One of his pupils, Johannes Radermacher, described him in a letter to a friend in London, Jacob Cool:

"although my master was not a man of letters, he had a great respect for literature, scholars and artists, and definitely for those whose efforts might have profitable results for his personal entreprises ... Contrary to his fellow country men he was very open and helpfull. His navigational skills and his knowledge of seamanship excelled those of any of his Antwerp contemporaries".

[ ill. nr. 62: Ortelius ]
Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1570.

Gillis Hooftman strongly encouraged Abraham Ortelius to compound an atlas, which resulted in the publication of the latter's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570. This book is considered to be the first true atlas in history and soon became world-famous. The collection of maps which Hooftman had put together himself for use on his ships, formed a basis for Ortelius in the composition of this atlas.

In his letter to Jacob Cool in London, Johannes Rademacher wrote:

"To be able to perform navigational observations, he [Hooftman] sought to acquire all possible reliable measuring equipment, compasses and others. In this way he managed to detect the advantageous wind streams, which enabled him to sail his many ships under most favourable conditions."

[ ill. nr. 63a ][ ill. nr. 63b ]
Michel Coignet, Institution nouvelle ... touchant l'art de naviguer, 1581.
© Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus, A 2727.

Obviously, the scientist Michel Coignet was encouraged by Hooftman to write the Instruction nouvelle des poincts plus excellents & necessaires touchant l'art de naviger; the merchant wanted to quickly capitalize Coignet's scientific discoveries to his own profit.

[ Index ]       [ Help ] [ Terug ]       [ Verder ]