The Art of War series was initially woven for three rulers, all following Louis XIV's example of using tapestry sets to confirm both status and power. Thus, while the Elector Max Emmanuel of Bavaria (d. 1726) and the Margrave Louis of Baden (d. 1707) both commissioned a series to commemorate their victory over the Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683, William III of England (d. 1702) ordered a set so as not to be outdone by his great rival, Louis XIV. Surprisingly all three chose to commission Brussels ateliers rather than their own weavers.
The Elector of Bavaria tapestries were the first to be completed. Comprising a set of eight, of which seven are still known to exist, they were recorded in the 1696 accounts:
Achat par l'lecteur Maximilien Emmanuel, le 1 avril 1696, d'une suite de tapisseries de Bruxelles tisses par G. Van der Borcht et J. de Clercq.
Comprising 'Campement', 'Fachinade', 'Embuscade', 'Pillage', 'La Marche', 'Fouragement', 'Rencontre' and 'Attacque', the series cost the huge amount of 3,787 escus and were woven by Jrme Le Clerc (d. circa 1720) and Jasper van der Borght (d. 1742), who are known to have collaborated on several large series to reduce the time it took to complete such commissions. These two weavers are believed to have woven all the sets of the first series of cartoons of which Lambert de Hondt, active in Brussels in the 1690s, is believed to be the designer. It is interesting to note that none of the panels actually record specific Victories, but rather depict general scenes of campaigns, and only one of the set, La Marche, actually glorifies the Commander-in-Chief. This particular panel is unusual in probably depicting a specific event (the geographical details as well as the architecture led A. Wace to identify the area as Belgrade), while the modelling of the figures is less characteristic of de Hondt. It is therefore possible that this specific panel was designed by a differing designer.
The Bavarian set, of which two panels remain at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, and five at the castle of Schleissheim, as well as the Baden set of which three panels are in the Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe, have the same helmet to the bottom centre of the border as that just visible along the bottom edge of the present lot. In addition to the set of eight, originally ordered by Max Emmanuel, there are further tapestries with identical borders, including 'A mounted trooper questioning a peasant'. This suggests that the Elector possibly extended the existing first set, although no records of such a commission have been traced.
The set made for William III around 1700 remains untraced. It is, however, possible that the set mentioned in a letter dated 13 September 1706 from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough to his wife Sarah, refers to William III's set:
I am told of a Sute of Hangings that is at Antwerp that may be bought for eighteen hundred pounds & that they are worth much more. Wou'd you have mee bye them? They have neither silver nor gold in them nor were ever us'd. They were bespoke by the late King...
It has been suggested that these tapestries are the ones which were sold upon the expulsion of the House of Orange in 1799 and subsequently in these Rooms, 12 June 1929, lot 119.
After the wars of the Spanish Succession between 1700 and 1714, when the hitherto invincible French army was defeated by the Allies, the Duke of Marlborough (d. 1722) had two sets woven for himself and six further sets were completed for his Generals: Lord Cadogan, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Orkney, General Lumley, Lord Cobham and General Webb. The first set for the Duke of Marlborough was possibly a gift from the town of Brussels to the Duke upon its liberation in 1706. It is woven with gold to the arms at the top and the borders were re-designed by Jan van Orley. Of the subsequent sets made for the Generals only three remain traceable, those of Lord Orkney, Lord Cobham and General Lumley. All but the series woven for General Lumley bear the arms of their owner. Only the set woven for Lord Orkney and the one that remains at Blenheim Palace are known to have trophy borders, while the other sets have picture-frame borders.
The second version of the series, commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough to commemorate specific events rather than the general subjects of the earlier series, as well as all the subsequent weavings, were executed in the ateliers of Jodocus de Vos. Twelve further sets were woven from these re-designed cartoons, partially re-using sections of the old subjects and sometimes reversing the main fields.
It is therefore most likely that this lot belonged to either the set woven for William III, the Margrave of Baden, or to the additional set of tapestries ordered by the Elector Max Emmanuel, some of which have been identified at Schleissheim.
Two tapestries, possibly from the same set as this lot and depicting Attacque and Vivandier, from the property of Baron Coppe, were sold in these Rooms, 26 November 1996, lots 228 and 229; while two further panels from the later sets by Jodocus de Vos and depicting Campement and La Marche and bearing the arms of Johann Wenzel Graf Wratislaw (d. 1712), were sold anonymously in these Rooms, 1 October 1998, lots 221 and 222. Another panel depicting The Battle of Belgrade with its military trophy borders is illustrated in A. Wace, The Marlborough Tapestries, London, 1968, p. 38, fig. 19.