The Battle of Gibr altar by Claesz van Wieeringen

The Battle of Gibr altar by Claesz van Wieeringen
The Battle of Gibr altar by Claesz van Wieeringen

This work by Dutch painter Cornelisz Claesz van Wieiringen (c. 1580 – 1663) depicts a moment from the Battle of Gibr altar in the one in which Spain faced the navy of the Netherlands. Specifically, it represents a key moment of that episode, just at the moment in which the flagship of the Hispanic army explodes.


Battle of Gibr altar by Cornelisz Claesz van Wieeringen

A most bloody and violent scene, since it is seen in great detail, not only how many elements of the ship are blown up, including the sailors. But you can see its cover in flames, and how the soldiers who are there are going to die burned.

In fact, there is an extraordinary detail in all of it, almost bordering on the morbid. Something that somehow takes away the drama, since there are some notes halfway between parody and brutality.

The episode really happened. In the context of the very long conflict between the Netherlands and Spain (1568 – 1648), which, although the dates do not coincide, is called the Thirty Years' War, whose final outcome was the independence of the current territories of Netherlands and Belgium.

It happened in April 1607, when the Dutch fleet surprised the Spanish ships that were in the Gibr altarian bay. However, the picture was painted several years later, around 1621, whenit was decided to commission the work to Cornelisz Claesz van Wieiringen and thus commemorate that victory. A painting that is now kept in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The fact is that the genre of naval battles had a special development in Holland, and there were painters like Cornelisz Claesz who specialized almost exclusively in this type of image. In fact, in Dutch painting artists abounded, and it is a fact that many of them specialized in a single theme given the enormous demand for this type of painting, well outside, naval battles, individual or group portraits, still lifes, or landscapes. Even in the latter case there were painters who mostly painted winter landscapes.

But going back to the paintings of sea battles, the truth is that there were several painters dedicated to it. For example, the entireWilaerts family, a saga of painters made up of father Adam, and his sons Abraham and Isaac. And they also specialized in these tracks Aert Anthonisz and Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. Although it is true that all of them, perhaps we should consider them second-rate artists, since by dint of repeating and repeating this type of scene, the truth is that they ended up making an almost industrial production, without much artistic interest. Although it does have a historical appeal, both for its theme of illustrating episodes from the past as well as for showing a splendid artistic moment such as the Dutch Golden Age.

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