What Used to Happen to Bad Leaders
This is what used to happen to traitorous or incompetent leaders in the West. Or, when the populace just happened to get pissed off at their rulers. Now, people just bend over the barrel and hope the latest loss of liberty or tyrannical power grab foisted upon them by the elite and those who do their bidding in the political class doesn’t rip their anus as it’s inserted.
In this case, after repeated invasions of the Dutch Republic, the people decided to make their voices heard to the ruling class and let it be known that they’d had it. Jan de Baen was there to capture the carnage on canvas.
Other than Rembrandt’s The Night Watch showcasing the Dutch Golden Age, The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers by Jan de Baen was my favorite piece during my visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The museum describes Jan de Baen’s work like this:
The ultimate humiliation: the nude, flayed corpses of Johan and Cornelis de Witt on public display in the Groene Zoodje, the execution ground on the Vijverberg in the middle of The Hague. On 20 August 1672 they were assassinated by their political opponents. Johan had been the most powerful man in the Republic for close to twenty years, steadfastly supported by his brother Cornelis. But they were held responsible for everything that went wrong in the year 1672, known as the ‘Year of Disaster’.
A little more digging reveals:
De Witt held a key position in Dutch politics, being a kind of Prime Minister avant la lettre. In that role, he was repeatedly in conflict with the Orange faction, led by Prince William III of Orange (later King of England during the so-called Glorious Revolution), who felt menaced in his authority. When De Witt came to power, a collective aversion to monarchical power dominated among the Dutch people. But things changed in 1672, the ‘Disaster Year’, when the Dutch Republic was attacked by a large alliance of hostile countries. Popular feeling suddenly turned in favor of William III, and mistrust grew against Johann de Witt and his brother Cornelis.
The latter, who was also an influential political figure, got imprisoned in The Hague on false accusations of treason. On 20 August 1672, when Johan was visiting his brother in prison, the brothers were dragged out of the building and lynched outside by an angry mob. The rage seemed to be spontaneous, but was in fact well-organized and planned by Orangist militiamen. The frenzy was so immense that the De Witts were not just killed, but literally ripped apart by the inflamed mass. Body parts like heart and fingers were removed to be exposed as souvenirs, while other parts were roasted and eaten by the hysterical crowd, in a bizarre outburst of cannibalism. Their corpses were eventually hung upside down on a scaffold nearby. The disgusting sight was captured in this dark painting, whose artist (attributed to Jan de Baen) seems to have witnessed the lynching and presents us his gruesome experience in this early form of visual journalism.”
Of course, this scene and story offend politically correct, soy boy sensibilities today as the populace has become accustomed to revering leaders who repeatedly betray them and heap scorn upon them. One might imagine traitors wouldn’t be so bold if we lived in a nation in which irrational things like this still happened.
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