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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more THE ECLECTIC EYE. PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTOR

The Siege of Diksmuide; and The Siege of Armentières with a rainbow

The Siege of Diksmuide; and The Siege of Armentières with a rainbow
oil on canvas
41 1⁄8 x 53 1⁄2 in. (104.5 x 136 cm.)
(2)a pair
Commissioned from the artist in August 1649 by Ottavio Piccolomini (1599-1656), Commander in Chief of the army of the Holy Roman Empire.
Anonymous sale [The second part from an old Austrian collection]; Dr Störi, Zurich, 12 Mai 1924, lot 110, where catalogued as signed.
Schelto, Baron van Heemstra (1879-1960), Arnhem, by circa 1925, and by descent in the family.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 25 April 1978 (=2nd day), lot 102b.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 12 December 1984, lot 53, when acquired by the present owner.
P. Hrncirik and R. Sennewald, Pieter Snayers, 1592-1667: Battle Painter of the 17th Century, Berlin, 2018, pp. 348-351, illustrated.
L. Kelchtermans, Geschilderde gevechten, gekleurde verslagen. Een contextuele analyse van Peter Snayers' (1592-1667) topografische strijdtaferelen voor de Habsburgse elite tussen herinnering en verheerlijking, PhD thesis, University of Louvain, 2013, II, p. 35, illustrated.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Pieter Snayers produced a number of large-scale battle scenes during his career, documenting military engagements from the Thirty Years War. The present two paintings perfectly exemplify his work in this genre, masterfully combining a raised foreground, populated by soldiers and cavalrymen, with a carefully delineated topographic portrait of a town or battlefield in the distance. The painter’s meticulous, cartographic rendering of these landscapes appears to have relied, in part, on the use of military maps (fig. 1), as well as on first hand reports given to him, or direct observations of his subjects. The majority of these large battle paintings were commissioned by leading political and military figures of the Habsburg Court. In several of the scenes (including the present two), Snayers included portraits of the rulers or governors of the Spanish Netherlands, who had been witnesses or participants in the sieges or battles depicted. For example, in his depiction of The Siege of Breda of c. 1628 (Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado), the Infanta Clara Eugenia can be seen in a carriage in the foreground watching the battle below. Snayers rarely included identifying inscriptions or symbols in his works, suggesting that the canvases were made for audiences already familiar with the engagements, which he so faithfully reconstructed in paint. In glorifying the actions of the Habsburg armies, and especially their leaders (likely the patrons of the pictures in the first place), the painter not only documented their actions for posterity but also bolstered their status through visualising their heroic and patriotic endeavours on the field of battle.
The Thirty Years War was one of the most dramatic and devastating conflicts in European history. Snayers’ present Sieges show the results of two battles between the armies of France and the Habsburg Spanish Netherlands. In May 1635, Louis XIII officially declared war against Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, entering the conflict as an ally of the Dutch Republic and Sweden. After the Treaty of Westphalia, at which the sovereignty of the Dutch Republic was officially recognised by the Spanish Netherlands, France continued to fight. Despite minor gains in territories in Flanders for the French, by the late 1650s little had been achieved in the conflict and peace was made in November 1659.
In the first of these works, Snayers has depicted the recapture of the town of Diksmuide, in modern day Belgium. The town had been taken by the French forces, led by Maréchal Josias Rantzau (1609-1650), on 13 July 1647 after a short siege which had rapidly over-powered the town’s ravelin defences (triangular fortifications located in front of fortified towns or strongholds). Only a month later, however, in August, the troops of the Spanish Netherlands returned to the town, besieging the occupying French. It is this moment that is depicted in Snayers’ canvas. In the left foreground, among the gathering soldiers, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria (1614-1662), Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, is shown mounted on a dappled grey steed, dressed in a simple grey coat and black hat, holding a baton of command in his hand. It was the Archduke himself who received the keys of Diksmuide following the town’s recapitulation to Habsburg control.
The second painting shows the town of Armentières, now on the border between France and Belgium, with the river Lys running through its centre. The town had, like Diksmuide, been a contested site between French and Habsburg troops during the Thirty Years War. Under Hapsburg control at the start of the war, the town was surrendered to French forces on 8 September 1645. As the French army approached, the town’s Habsburg governor, the Lord de Maugré, had shrewdly recognised that his garrison would not be able to hold out against the strength of the encroaching army. Thus, he had capitulated to the French troops, negotiating an honourable, and peaceful, surrender of the town. Much like at Diksmuide, however, the French possession of the town was short lived. Perhaps exacerbated by the outbreak of a plague epidemic in the city in 1646, the town’s strength became increasingly fragile. The following year, in 1647, after fourteen days of siege, the town fell once more under the Habsburg’s power. Snayers’ monumental canvas of the Habsburg siege, as with that depicting Diksmuide, shows a panoramic view of the city and its defences, with gathering troops and soldiers bustling in the foreground. In a slightly more dramatic passage, Snayers here shows a brigade of cavalrymen riding down the hill at the left towards the town. Amongst the throng, he again includes a portrait of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, wearing the same simple grey coat, a red feather in his hat and mounted on a rearing bay horse. He turns back towards the viewer, as his troops gather about him, riding forward to the siege beyond.

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