In September/December 2011 Gavaghan was able to visit the Netherlands for her PhD research on identity construction in seventeenth-century Dutch portraits.
Thanks to the generosity of the Association for Low Countries Studies, I was able to spend three months in the Hague, the Netherlands (September – December 2011) working on my doctoral thesis entitled ‘The Family Picture: A Study of Identity Construction in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Portraits.’ During this period of research and study, I was able to take advantage of libraries, archives, and museums in the Netherlands. I had access to library resources not normally available to me at the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (Netherlands Institute for Art History) and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands). The Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie is one of the most important art-historical information centres for the study of Dutch art with a special collection of documentary, library, and archival materials. One of the unique features of this centre is their collection of boxes of portrait images. I searched through the portrait boxes for family portraits, and from this created a database of the family portraits in the collection from 1625-1700, along with finding relevant images for my research.
I also had the opportunity to visit museums and archives during this trip. In particular, I visited the Regionaal Archief (Regional Archive) in Leiden while doing research on the Backer family, who were from Amsterdam. In particular, I looked at a letter and a collection of writings concerning a dispute between the Backer and de la Court families over their family portraits and papers. In researching another Amsterdam family, the van Loons, I had the chance to visit the Van Loon Museum and meet with the curator. We viewed several books devoted to tracing the family’s lineage, all of which had been written by members of the family. One text of specific interest to me, written by Nicolaas van Loon, was an in-depth lineage tracing the family’s connection to various noble and gentry families. Included in the manuscript were various portraits of significant family members as well.
These library, collection, and archival visits have been indispensable to improving, building, and realising my thesis research and I am incredibly grateful for the support that the ALCS has offered me in this endeavour.