Baby Name Story: Tesselschade

The other day, I visited the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam website to admire Still Life with a Gilt Cup by Willem Claeszoon Heda. (Here’s more on the name Claeszoon.) A few clicks later, I was learning about römer drinking glasses (there’s one in the painting). And that led me to a Dutch glass engraver Maria Tesselschade Visccher (b. 1594).

There’s an interesting story behind Tesselschade. Although, as with Return Meigs, so many versions of the story exist that it’s hard to know which to believe.

The name Tesselschade is made up of two parts: Tessel, which refers to the Dutch island of Texel, and schade, Dutch for “damage.” Sources agree that Tesselschade’s father, Roemer, was a Dutch merchant whose ships had been caught in a storm near Texel sometime before her birth. But sources disagree on when the storm happened, how many ships sank, and whether or not Roemer had been aboard one of them and rescued.

And Rijksmuseum Amsterdam adds another little twist to the story:

According to tradition, he gave his daughter the rather unusual name of Tesselschade (i.e., Texel damage), because his ships had recently foundered in a storm off the coast of Texel.

Tradition? I wonder what tradition they’re talking about. Were many other 16th-century Dutch babies named for shipping accidents? (I’m going to email the museum and ask about this. If I get a response, I’ll let you know.)

Tesselschade ended up having three daughters: Taddea, Maria Tesselschade, and an unnamed third. She outlived all of them, sadly. I don’t believe the name was given to any other descendants.

Sources:

  • Carroll, Jane Louise and Alison G. Stewart. Saints, Sinners, and Sisters. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2003.
  • “Lights of Dutch Literature.” The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science and Art. May 1854: 134-141.
  • Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.
  • Sneller, A. Agnes and Olga van Marion. De Gedichten van Tesselschade Roemers. Hilversum: Uitgeverij Verloren, 1994.

3 thoughts on “Baby Name Story: Tesselschade

  1. Got a response! Here it is:

    As far as I know, giving a girl or boy a name that refers to a disaster was quite exceptional. But of course we know of Tesselschade because her father as well as she herself was well known.

    You maybe could contact the Meertens Instituut of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences for more information, it holds a database on Dutch names.

    The gentleman who emailed was named Gijs, which, my sources say, is short for Gijsbert [approx. KIES-bert]. He sent me an email address for the Meertens Instituut, so I’m off to contact them now…

  2. Maria Tesselschade Roemersdochter Visscher was baptized simply as Marritgen (a dimitutive form of Maria) but her father, Roemer Visscher, announced he would call her Tesselschade immediately after her birth. Maybe the minister had refused to use this name at baptism.

    Roemer Visscher obviously intended this name as a joke but Tesselschade herself didn’t seem to mind. Maybe she was proud of her unusual name. In her correspondence and even at her marriage she went by Tesselschade.

    Her name is still in use in the Netherlands. (Tesselschade, like her father, was a well-known poet. She is not famous just because of her name.) 170 women and girls named Tesselschade or Tessel were invited to the celebration of her 400th birthday in 1994. 120 of them actually turned up.

  3. Thanks for all the background, Maarten!

    That last part was fascinating. I had no idea modern women/girls were being named Tesselschade. Reminds me of names like Banjo (in Australia) and Sojourner (in the US) — names with a certain national significance/resonance that probably sound a bit curious to outsiders.

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