This nice advertisement was made for the Nederlandsch-Indische Levensverzekering- en Lijfrente-Maatschappij (NILLMIJ). The NILLMIJ was the largest insurance company in the Dutch East Indies, founded in 1859 by a Dutch colonist. The NILLMIJ had offices in Batavia (now Jakarta), Surabaya, Semarang, Bandung and Medan. The branch offices in The Netherlands were located in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.
The design of the advertisement dates from around 1900. The ‘en profil’ pose and the circular medallion in the background are typical for the early Art Nouveau. Unfortunately, the ad is not signed. So we can’t be sure about the designer. But it must have been someone who was well aware of the new Art Nouveau style. I suspect it’s a design by Jan Rotgans, who worked in a similar way and made several advertisements for the NILLMIJ around the same time.
The depicted woman with her beautiful tiara with inlaid gemstones and other precious jewels shows much resemblance with the work of Art Nouveau artists like Alphonse Mucha or Henri Privat-Livemont. She’s the personification of ‘Insulinde’. This nickname for the Dutch East Indies was introduced by the writer Eduard Douwes Dekker (better known as ‘Multatuli’) in his book Max Havelaar, which for the first time exposed the oppression of the local population.
The large diamond on her tiara refers to Indonesia as the crown jewel of the Dutch colonies. The white, red and green gems symbolize the natural riches of the archipelago. The green stones are emeralds and refer to one of the last passages of Multatuli’s book in which he addresses the Dutch king directly:
‘I dedicate my book to you, Willem the third, king, grand duke, prince… more than prince, grand duke and king… emperor of the beautiful empire of Insulinde, that winds around the equator, like a belt of emerald.’