enter image description here
I'm doing research on a painting 'Koppertjesmaandag' by Adriaen van Nieulandt in 1633. In the right corner of the painting you can see a couple of ships with their flags. One in particular is a gold flag with a black eagle. This flag seems to be used a lot for the Holy Roman Empire, although usually double-headed. This particular flag is single headed.

Anyone here with knowledge on European flags? Thank you.

  • 1
    Indeed, i couldn't see it that clearly, but the HRE had a singleheaded warflag called the "Reichssturmfahne" but that doesn't seem a likely candidate seeing that it way to old for the painting
    – DLE
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 11:57
  • 1
    Also Aachen used a simular flag
    – DLE
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:01
  • 1
    I added a better picture. The eagle is single-headed
    – L.O
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:18
  • HRE banner maybe? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 18:55

6 Answers 6


I would say it is the flag of Deventer. It's a city towards the east of the Netherlands, that prospered by trading with the various cities around the North and Baltic Sea coast as well as Scandinavia. It is situated at the river IJssel, which feeds in the Zuiderzee (back then, before Afsluitdijk changed it). The port of Amsterdam (depicted on the painting) also is connected directly to the Zuiderzee. Both cities being big trading cities, with easy access to each other, you can imagine many ships from either city visited the other.

Below is a picture of the facade of the Deventer City Hall, showing the single headed eagle on a golden shield, similar to the flag in the OP's question. Picture of the Deventer City Hall

Deventer was part of the Hanseatic league, and part of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. It was granted Free Imperial City rights before 1250, which explains the single headed eagle, as the emperor Frederick II adopted the double headed eagle around 1250 (according to the Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris ).

Source of the picture and additional renditions of the coat of arms.

  • 2
    Finally a good answer to this question. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 12:02
  • 2
    Funny thing was that I saw this question a few months back and forgot about it, until I actually visited Deventer last week and made me remember this question.
    – Folkert
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 12:22

I don't think it's an eagle. It looks more like a Gryphon. In that case, it could be from a number of Baltic states or areas, especially Pomerania.

But I'm pretty sure it's actually a lion, or more specifically, the Flemish Lion, indicating that the ships are from Flanders, which is the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium nowadays, or from the Netherlands in general:

Flag of Flanders, from the Wikipedia page

  • yup, if you look the ships seem to be flying this flag from one mast and the Dutch tricolour from the other. Which would be logical as Flanders was part of the Netherlands at the time (but always with an independent streak).
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 14:29

That looks a bit like the flag of Prussia. At the time, Prussia was a duchy vassal of Poland, and had been given as a standard an Eagle. There were a lot of Baltic port cities in Prussia, most notably Danzig (now Gdansk)

enter image description here

The only problem is that the eagle is facing the wrong way. Looking through their flags, it looks like there were a couple of iterations where the eagle was facing to the right instead of the left, but those were both in the 20th Century (and both known as "The Free State of Prussia").

So either this is close, but not it, or the artist was painting from memory and got the facing direction of his Prussian eagles wrong.

  • thanks for your comment. I was thinking of Prussia as well, but this flag doesnt have a gold (or yellow) background. The painting was made from the memory of the painter, so big possibility that the direction the eagle faces is wrong.
    – L.O
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 15:10
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    Wouldn't the direction that the head faced depend on which side of the boat you were viewing it from?
    – AllInOne
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:37
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    @AllInOne - That's a good point. Upon posting I was thinking that they might have the same image printed on both sides, rather than just letting it be reversed on the back side, but that isn't how the flags I'm acquainted with work. However, aren't flags usually designed with the pole on the left? So the painting should be depicting the front side, right?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:47
  • Yes agree, that's the standard as I understand it as well.
    – AllInOne
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:49
  • 1633 is mid-way through the Thirty Years War - Brandenburg-Prussia was much smaller than it would become under Frederick the Great. It has acquired Eastern Pomerania, but will not acquire West Prussia (including Gdansk/Danzig) until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 12:11

I found a site which might lead to the answer. Sadly I couldn't find the territory named Keizer (Emperor? Maybe is it a royal ensign for the Emperor himself?), the sixth from left, third from top: enter image description here

Very exact match by color and shape. check out this link for greater resolution: Very RARE 18th Century Table of all ship's flags in the world - Gerard van Keulen.

  • 3
    "Keizer" does most probably mean "Kaiser", that is, "Emperor" as the French translation says, and the flag is the banner of the Holy Roman Emperor. I was tempted to say that's the flag, but the Eagle in the painting has a single-headed eagle and I don't think a painter at the time would miss that detail.
    – JMVanPelt
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 0:56
  • @JMVanPelt yes, I suspected so, my guess is that those boats belong to the HRE Kaiser directly. I am not sure about the one head interpretation, apart from that the flag is perfect match, the wings, the legs, and the fact that the lower part doesn't have a well recognizable big tail. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 20:22

This looks like the coat of arms for the duchy of Holland. A red lion on a yellow background. This would make sense because Amsterdam, the city thats depicted in the painting, was one of the most important cities of Holland.

enter image description here

  • 2
    Nearby Flanders is more likely (it's a similar one with a black lion). Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 18:16
  • Holland has never been a duchy, but a county.
    – JRB
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 20:47

In the painting as a whole I see a lot of Dutch flags. In the enlarged part of the painting there is what looks like a Dutch flag with letters on it (East or west India Company?). I also see what looks like a yellow flag with something red on it, and possibly horizontal stripes. A building in the background has what looks like the Amsterdam coat of arms.

I suppose it is a Dutch port and there are Dutch and foreign ships in it. I think that looking up the 17th century flags of Dutch and foreign provinces and seaports would be useful.

I note that the flag of Flanders in France & Belgium was yellow with a black lion on it but those look like eagles and not lions.

Most of the north German ports had red and white flags.

The Holy Roman Emperor and the Tsar of Russia had yellow flags with black 2 headed eagles. And some of their subjects might have flown such flags. Just as a stone slab with a carved 2 headed eagle was excavated from the site of the Hanseatic offices in London. The king of the Romans and future emperor used a yellow coat of arms with a single headed eagle but that ship in the painting is unlikely to have used his banner. A coat of arms yellow with a single headed eagle was sometimes also used for the kingdom of Germany and so some German ships MIGHT possibly might have flown a flag with that coat of arms.

You should look in 17th century flag charts for similar flags. In my experience flags with eagles were rare.


There was no law against a shipowner having a personal coat of arms and banner of yellow with a black eagle, so it could have been a private flag.

What type of ship flew the eagle flags and how far was it likely to travel? It looks like a small ship to me. Putting banner like flags on staffs at the end of diagonal booms is an unfamiliar practice to me. Are there specific occasions or types of ships that would be done on?

Here is a site for flag identification questions:


Added 04-02-2018 - I note that the eagle flag looks square, like a banner, while most of the other flags seem rectangular, like flags normally flown by ships, which may be a clue.

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