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Aansprekersoproer – The Undertakers’ Riot


LOW COUNTRIES, Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden (Dutch Republic). Amsterdam. 1581-1795. AR Medal (37mm, 26.84 g, 12h). Commemorating the Resolution of the Civic Unrest in Amsterdam. By J. Boskam. Dated 1696 in Roman numerals. MOTOS · PRÆSTAT · COMPONERE · FLUCTUS (he stands ready to control the billowing waves, –adapted from Virgil), Neptune, holding trident and extending arm, standing upon carriage pulled rightward by two sea horses; coat-of-arms of Amsterdam behind; to far left and right, personifications of the wind blowing upon the stormy seas; in foreground, two kingfishers (Halcyons) floating in a nest / HALCYONIBUS · REDUCTIS/SENATUS · AMSTELOD/CIVIBUS · SUIS · HOC/ANTIQUÆ · VIRTUTIS/SPECTATÆQ · FIDEI/PRÆMIUM · LARGITUR (the Halcyons having returned, the Amsterdam city council grants unto her citizens this gift of ancient virtue and wondrous faith) in six lines on banner, the same two doves floating in a nest upon calm seas; rising sun upon the horizon; in two lines in exergue, MDCXCVI/I·BOSKAM·F·. Van Loon IV, pp. 161-2. Good VF, toned, small scratch in the field on the obverse.

Following the passage of a new law which planned to cut the number of men working as an undertaker’s man from 300 to 72, the aanspreker (undertakers) spread rumors around the city that, due to these proposed changes, the city’s poor would no longer be able to expect proper burials. The ensuing riot grew from just the poor to the city’s sailors as well, with unruly crowds attacking the homes of the various civic leaders. The riot was eventually quelled, but not after a number of deaths among the city’s elite.

The representation of the Halcyons alludes to the Greek legend in which these birds would calm the sea in order to lay their eggs in a floating nest, therefore giving rise to the association of the Halcyons as an allegory for peace or serenity–the calm which was ushered in following the resolution to the aansprekersoproer.