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The Surrender of Breda,

by Diego de Velázquez

 

1634
Oil on canvas

307 x 367 cm

Prado Museum, Madrid

 

The scene captures the moment in 1625 when the Genoese aristocrat Ambrosio de Spínola, leader of  the Spanish troops, received the key to the city of Breda (Holland), which had recently been conquered by the Spanish regiments, from the hands of Justin de Nassau. This event was part of the so-called Eighty Years’ War, which set the Low Countries against the Spanish monarchy and ended with the independence of the rebel provinces.

 

The Spanish general extends a friendly arm to the defeated Dutchman, trying to avoid this resting against him. The scene transpires in an atmosphere of apparent calm in which only a few distant fires and the presence of pikes (on the Dutch side) and lances (on the Spanish side) recall the long and arduous siege suffered by the city of Breda. The picture thus echoes the magnanimity with which the victors treated the Dutch army in real life, considering them a worthy opponent.