Tradition has it that in the early morning of February 5th of 1600 the so-called Battle of Leckerbeetje took place during the Eighty Years' War outside the city of Bois-le-Duc. It was a duel to which Flemish mercenaries, under the command of General Leckerbeetje, had challenged French soldiers because they felt offended. The French, mostly younger sons of noble families, are said to have called their Flemish colleagues yokels and clod-hoppers, believing them to be of much lower birth. Although General Leckerbeetje himself was killed during the battle, his Flemish soldiers beat the French, who were more chivalrous than well-trained. The Flemish horsemen can be recognised by the red plumes and scarves and the French cavalry by the green plumes on their helmets.
As Mr. Joost vander Auwera kindly pointed out, this painting appears to be the only identifiable work by the Antwerp master Balthasar Courtois, who may be related to the battle painter Jacques Courtois, il Borgognone. He is mentioned as a pupil of Sebastiaan Vrancx in 1607 and entered the Guild of Saint Luke in 1614. The prominently placed monogram and date on the work and the fact that it is painted on silver may suggest that the present lot was made as a meesterproef (masterpiece). The subject of the Battle of Leckerbeetje was very popular in the early 17th Century. Many versions are known by Sebastiaan Vrancx and artists from his circle.
We are grateful to Mr. Joost vander Auwera for the identification of the monogram and his assistance in cataloguing this lot (written communication, 21 March 2006).