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Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778)


Teylers Museum originated from the ideals of the wealthy Haarlem citizen Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778). In keeping with the philosophy of his day, the Enlightenment, Teyler believed that promulgating knowledge of the arts and sciences would lead to a better society. In his testament, he laid the foundation for this museum and for two learned societies. This is why Teyler’s ideals are still relevant today.

Pieter Teyler

Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778)

Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) came from a family of Baptists (Mennonites). They are reformed Christians with strict ideas about the relationships between people. For religious reasons, Teyler’s forebears had emigrated from Scotland to Haarlem in the 16th century. They had long been involved in the textile industry, and Pieter, too, like his father, was successful in the production and sale of silk and worsted. Starting in 1763, he became active in the world of finance and offered his services as a banker. As a typical representative of the Enlightenment, Teyler had a wide-ranging interest in the sciences and arts. He collected objects in both fields. In addition, he was very interested in theology. In 1728, he married Helena Wijnands Verschave. In 1756, shortly after his wife’s death, Pieter Teyler had his testament drawn up.

Teyler’s Testament

Pieter Teyler made a fortune, first, in the manufacturing of textiles and, later, as a banker. Like many of his 18th-century contemporaries, he had a wide-ranging interest in the sciences and arts, and he was fascinated by philosophy and theology. Pieter’s marriage to Helena Wijnands Verschave remained childless. In 1756, soon after his wife’s death, Teyler had his testament drawn up. In it, he bequeathed his entire estate, worth 2 million guilders (the equivalent of about 22 million euros today), to a Foundation, governed by five Directors from his circle of friends.

Teyler's will

Teyler's will

Wybrand Hendriks, Group portrait of the Directors of Teylers Foundation, 1786.

Group portrait of the Directors and secretary of Teylers Foundation, 1786. Standing: the architect of the Oval Room.

Wybrand Hendriks (1744-1831)

Teylers Foundation

The Foundation from Teyler’s testament serves several aims. Above all: to encourage knowledge of religion, the arts and sciences among citizens. In addition, money went to poor relief and other charitable causes. Following Pieter Teyler’s death in 1778, the Foundation also inherited his home at Damstraat 21, including his books and his collections in the fields of coins, medals, medallions, drawings and natural history.

Teyler’s First Society

In his testament, Pieter Teyler stipulated the establishment of Teyler’s Theological Society: an association for the advancement of the philosophy of religion, religious studies, biblical exegesis (explanation) and the history of Christianity, and practical theology. This First Society is still active today and sets an essay contest annually. The author of the winning submission receives a gold medallion, designed in 1778, from the directors of the Foundation.

Teyler’s Second Society

Pieter Teyler’s testament stipulated the establishment of Teyler’s Second Society, whose purpose was to advance the study of physics (physics and biology at the time), literature, history, art history and numismatics (coins, medals and medallions). The society still sets an essay contest annually, on one of those subjects, in rotation. The winner receives a gold medallion, designed in 1778, from Teylers Foundation.

Teylers Museum

The directors of Teylers Founation saw little importance in Teyler’s own collections and disposed of most of them. They did, however, recognize the importance of a place open to the public offering collections for study and research. In 1779, they asked Leendert Viervant to design an impressive ‘Book and Art Room’, behind Teyler’s home. The Oval Room opened to the public in 1784. In the following centuries, the museum complex continued to expand.

Discover the building

Oval Room, design by Leendert Viervant.

Oval Room, design by Leendert Viervant.

Famous Names

People from then and now who are associated with Teylers Museum.

Famous Names – a Summary

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Tuesday until Sunday 10:00 - 17:00

Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem

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