Large vellum sheet (380 x 508 mm.), the blank bottom (58 mm.) folded up and sewn with decorative ribbon, the calligraphic drawing on left continued over the fold. Calligraphic document with drawings in pen and ink: first lines in large calligraphic lettering enclosing the arms of William IV, Prince of Orange flanked by crowned lions rampant, at top two festoons of fruit and flowers, two very large ornate initials on left (D and I) intertwined with and enclosing respectively an elaborate cartouche within which is a drawing of a gardener about to plant a tree in a pot, and a large orange tree in a pot; similar images in right margin of text: in the upper cartouche a gardener digs with a spade, at lower right a lemon tree is flanked by two cacti. Signed by Berken in brown ink under the fold. A small stain affecting a drawing, tiny holes at fold junctures, the ribbons frayed and partially faded. ***
An ornate calligraphic apprenticeship certificate on vellum for a gardener in a princely estate. Well into the 19th century, in German-speaking regions, documents certifying the completion of training, apprenticeships or the achievement of master craftsman status in various professions continued to be produced as manuscripts, often calligraphic. The use of vellum and the lavish decoration used here testifies to the prestige enjoyed by gardeners, especially those employed in royal or aristocratic gardens.
The text states that “I Daniel von Berken, the present Pleasure- and Orange-Gardener of His most Serene Highness Prince Wilhelm Carl Heinrich Friso, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Count of Katzenelnbogen, Vianden, Dietz [etc.] state herewith that the bearer of the present document, the honorable and art-loving Lorentz Tihlmann, Ölck, a native of Ostfriesland, served as an apprentice gardener with me, from 27 January 1739 to the present date in 1741, during which time he worked diligently, earning the satisfaction and contentment” of his employer, etc.*
In 1676 Princess Albertine Agnes of Nassau purchased as a country estate a house in a wooded area in the province of Friesland. She renamed it Oranjewoud, after the royal dynasty, and had a park, alleys and canals constructed in the French style. The property was used until 1747 as a summer residence by successive Princes of Orange. As Wilhelm IV, Wilhelm Carl Heinrich Friso (1711-1751), who married the English princess Anne (called Anna van Hanover in the Netherlands), became the first hereditary stadtholder of all seven provinces of the Northern Netherlands.
* ”Durchlauchtigsten Fürsten und Herrn Herren Wilhelm Carl Heinrich Friso, Fürsten zu Oranien und Nassau, Grafen zu Katzenelnbogen, Vianden, Dietz, Spiegelberg Büren und Leerdam... [follow several more lines of titles] ... Meines gnädigsten Fürsten und Hernn jetziger zeit bestellter Lust-und Orangen Gärtner: Ich Daniel von Berken uhrkunde und bekenne hiermit, dass Vorzeiger dieses, der Erbare und Künstliebende Lorentz Tihlman Ölck, gebürtig aus Ostfriesland ... in Hochfürstl. Lust Garten...”. Item #4198