Banquet of Guardsmen from the District IV under Captain Jacob Backer and Lieutenant Jacob Rogh, Nicolaes Pickenoy, 1632 (detail), canvas, 198 x 531 cm, collection Amsterdam Museum

What we can learn from 17th century networking; small closed trust-based networks

This article in Dutch / dit artikel in het Nederlands


In March, Amsterdam University Press published the book Managing Authentic Relationships; Facing New Challenges in a Changing Context. A book about networking and relationship management written by Jean Paul Wijers, Monica Bakker, Robert Collignon and The book about relationship management 'Managing Authentic Relationships 'Gerty Smit and with contributions by among others Prof. René Foqué, Paul Mosterd, Paul Spies and Tom Verbelen. The book focuses on building and managing a strong network and reciprocal relationships for the entire organisation by implementing a professional relationship management approach at strategic, tactical and operational level. The book is written for those who have the responsibility within an organisation for the management of a professional business network.

The cover of the book is a 17th century militia painting by Nicolaes Pickenoy. It is a painting of the Amsterdam Museum, currently at display at the permanent exhibition ‘Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age‘ at the Hermitage Amsterdam. In the book Managing Authentic Relationships there are three more militia paintings, all historic examples of successful networking. The Deputy Director of the Hermitage Amsterdam, Paul Mosterd, writes about it in the book:

“In the Netherlands, there are no larger militia paintings than the ones that are displayed in the Hermitage Amsterdam. They remind us of the Golden Age; a period in which trade and culture flourished in our country. Within just a few generations, an incredible economic boom occurred in the newly-established Dutch Republic. The wealthy and powerful citizens who were then in charge, had themselves eternalised in monumental paintings. Nowadays we see them as large, beautifully painted works of art. We can also decipher the codes and analyse the messages that are hidden in these artworks. The paintings served as a kind of LinkedIn on the wall for citizens at the time. They hung in semi-public buildings and were intended for observation and consideration.

The paintings served as a kind of 17th century LinkedIn

Militia members who contributed financially received a place in the painting. Being portrayed towards the front of the painting was relatively expensive and for a full-length depiction, you paid  full price. It was certainly worth it however, because a work of such prestige could boost your career. It was an opportunity to demonstrate your good citizenship and to show that you acknowledged your responsibility to the city. You could also indicate ‘where you came from’ as well as showing how well connected you were. “

In this video Paul Mosterd explains what can be seen on the militia paining by Nicolaes Pickenoy


In Chapter 1 ‘The Importance of Networks and Relationships‘, Monica Bakker also writes about networking in the 17th century: “The Amsterdam admiralty, which was the economic and administrative power in the city, consisted of several closed networks, most of them based on strong family ties. People from within the network where called “friends,” whereas people from outside the network were referred to as “outsiders.” As an outsider, it was profoundly difficult to become part of these networks. The members enhanced their interdependence by gifts, invitations, and favors that at some point it was assumed would be returned. The network ties were based on reciprocity and trust and aimed to strengthen the group’s own economic and social position within Amsterdam society.”

Future networks are like 17th century networks: small, closed high-trust based networks

The paintings are not only relevant as a historic example of networking, these provide us with a vision on the future of networking as well. A vision that is explained by Monica Bakker in Chapter 1: “The expectation of networks of the future is that they will be more closed and centered around a certain shared purpose in so-called high-trust value networks creating both social and financial capital to support their cause. So even while technological developments allow us to be in touch with an ever-wider range of people, the tendency is to use these new technological possibilities to create networks that are:

  • More personal.
  • More closed to outsiders.
  • Relatively small (to safeguard the self-generating power of the platforms).
  • Based on trust and reciprocity.

The seventeenth-century network of friends and outsiders probably looks very dated at first but it is actually coming back, just in a much more complex state, not bound to a shared geographical location and with less face-to-face interaction. Quite like in the decade of the Amsterdam admiralty, personal and organizational success will depend on networking power.”


Read other articles about the book Managing Authentic Relationships on our blog(s):
Managing Authentic Relationship is a book about relationship management and networking published by Amsterdam University Press:

The book about relationship management 'Managing Authentic Relationships '



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