Dutch heiress moves from Japan to Indonesia

The family portrait of her with her first husband and their daughters Catharina and Hester.
The family portrait of her with her first husband and their daughters Catharina and Hester.PHOTO: ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

Individuals whose lives were examples of cross-cultural connections happening in port cities across Asia make up part of the exhibition, Port Cities: Multicultural Emporiums Of Asia, 1500-1900. Here are three such individuals.

Who: Cornelia van Nijenroode (around 1629 to 1691) Cornelia van Nijenroode was the daughter of a wealthy Dutch merchant in Hirado, Japan, and a Japanese geisha.

After her father's death in 1632, she was sent to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) and, in 1652, she married Pieter Cnoll, the chief merchant in Batavia responsible for the Dutch East India Company's accounts in Asia. Her husband died in 1672 and, four years later, she remarried.

Her second husband, Johan Bitter, tried to take over her inheritance and their acrimonious tussle became an infamous international court case in the 17th century. It was fought all the way to The Hague, where she died.

The family portrait of her with her first husband and their daughters Catharina and Hester emphasises their wealth and status, and shows how various cultures were a part of their lives through the objects they owned.

Cornelia and Catharina hold Japanese fans while Hester has on her lap a type of Sri Lankan ivory box that could have been used for storing jewellery or betel.

Also pictured is a small Pekingese dog and a vase resembling Chinese porcelain.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Dutch heiress moves from Japan to Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe