The title of this work painted by the artist Bartholomeus Van der Helst makes it very clear what the painter shows us. And the fact is that the full title of the work is The celebration of the Peace of Münster on June 18 at the headquarters of the civic crossbowmen in Amsterdam. Clearer impossible.
And that we see, a group of soldiers and militias after the signing of that document and that day, a moment steeped in history since together with the acts that were also held in the following months in the city ofOsnabrück, represents the episode of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. A peace that among other things represented the independence of the Netherlands from the Spanish Empire, with the that he had fought during the bloody decades of the Eighty Years' War.
Celebration of the Peace of Westphalia according to Van der Helst
Well, just a year after that episode, Van der Helst was painting this huge canvas (232 x 547 cm) that now hangs in the halls of theRijksmuseum Amsterdam.
A festive scene after the victory, although the Flemish and Protestant character is clear, much more contained than the Latin, because despite celebrating its independence sought for many years, the truth is that it presents everything to us quite content, although yes, the food abounds among those present and even more thewine.
In addition we can also verify another historical fact, and that is that the Civic Guard of Amsterdam had originally been a brave militia that had to defend its city against Spanish attacks. However, that fighting spirit had really disappeared in recent times, and at the moment in which they are portrayed, more than soldiers they are a group of very rich bourgeois. And deep down for that they can afford a portrait of these characteristics and dimensions, since all the characters that Helst presents us are real and recognizable in their time.
Van der Helst in total made 25 individual portraits to later include them in the whole group scene. This type of group portraits linked to a specific historical moment or an attitude was quite common at that time in the Netherlands, where there were also fully qualified painters.
Examples in this regard are numerous, but we can cite two of the largest. One would be Franz Hals author of works such as The Banquet of the Arquebusiers of Saint George of Haarlem. And another would undoubtedly be the Rembrandt painter of the famous Night Watch, exhibited in the same Rijksmuseum.