< Projecten

A nineteenth-century Amsterdam businesswoman with style

Donderdag 28 maart 2019
anna maria insinger-swarth
Charles Howard Hodges, Portrait of Anna Maria Insinger-Swarth, oil on canvas, 109x90 cm


Around 1821 Anna Maria Insinger-Swarth commissioned Charles Howard Hodges to paint five portraits of herself, for each of her five children. Hodges, who had been born in London in 1764, had established himself in Amsterdam in 1779, where he soon became one of the most successful portrait painters of his time.

By 1821 Anna Maria was already long time widowed. Her husband Herman Albrecht Insinger, whom she had married in 1787, had suddenly died in 1805, leaving her to manage the trading company Insinger & Co, which he had founded after his arrival from Germany in 1768. The firm was specialised in West Indian trade and the financing of plantations.

herman albrecht insinger
Anonymous, Herman Albrecht Insinger (1757-1805), Archive Bank Insinger&Co


The commission for the portraits was probably on the occasion of Anna Maria’s retirement at age 57, leaving the company in the capable hands of two of her sons Albrecht Frederik and Jacob Hermanus.

In the five portraits Anna Maria is portrayed as a self-confident businesswoman dressed to the latest fashion. In each portrait she wears a different outfit against a monumental, classicist-style backdrop, adorned with flowing red drapery, and a glimpse to the open sky.

anna maria insinger-swarth

Women like Anna Maria, with her astute business sense, were not uncommon in her time. Well-known is Johanna Jacoba Borski (1764-1846), who like Anna Maria successfully carried on her husband’s business, after being widowed at a young age. As Anna Maria she had ten children, of which two married Insinger children. While all five portraits of Anna Maria until recently had remained with the descendants of each of the children, the owners of one portrait were obliged to part with their property, but on the condition that the portrait would receive an appropriate place. This appropriate place turned out to be the boardroom of Bank Insinger Gillissen. Mrs Insinger-Swarth now resolutely oversees the boardroom, most likely to her full satisfaction.

anna maria insinger