Velázquez and The Surrender of Breda: The Making of a Masterpiece

3.53 avg rating
( 17 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780805088359: Velázquez and The Surrender of Breda: The Making of a Masterpiece

Behind the famous painting by Diego Velázquez lies a rich story of the artist's life in art

What began as propaganda art to celebrate a rare Spanish victory in the Eighty Years' War with Holland, The Surrender at Breda is today recognized as Velázquez's narrative masterpiece.

Breda is packed with vivid military detail―whole armies are suggested on the huge canvas, twelve feet high and eleven feet wide. Unlike typical surrender scenes, there is neither a heroic victor on horseback nor a vanquished commander on his knees. Instead the rivals appear on foot almost as equals. The loser bends forward to offer the key and receives a chivalrous pat on his shoulder, as if to say: "Fortune has favored me, but our roles might have been reversed."

Anthony Bailey examines the paintings from which the artist arose, coaxing stories from them that flesh out a complete portrait of one of the world's major artists whose personal life has remained largely unknown.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Anthony Bailey is the author of Vermeer: A View of Delft, two books on Rembrandt, the novel Major Andre, and nineteen other books. A writer for The New Yorker for a quarter century, Bailey has been called "one of the best descriptive writers of his generation" (John Russell, The New York Times).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I. THE TURFSHIP. BREDA. 1590

The wing of a butterfly beats, we are told, and a million aftereffects later, far away, a tidal wave happens. In the chain of causation that matters here, what could be taken for a starting point was not an insect wing-beat but a spade cut, as a rectangular piece of peat was sliced from soggy ground and placed onto a barrow from which it was then loaded onto a high-sided barge, heaped up, turf upon turf, in a pile that resembled an earthen shed, hollow inside, though only a few were aware of this fact. From the riverbank, where the loading was taking place, the ship's cargo looked like a solid stack. The river was the Mark; it flowed northward through Brabant, a province in the Netherlands, to join the much larger river Waal, and thence out to the North Sea. The time was the beginning of March, 1590, a gray morning, and a war was going on. Despite this the scene near Zevenbergen seemed utterly peaceful as, the next day, the barge's sails were hoisted and—think of a painting by the Dutch artist Jan van Goyen—the turfship set off up the Mark toward the town of Breda, past the diked green meadows in which cattle grazed.

One man, one of the only two visible crew members, stood in the bow while the skipper sat on a bench at the stern, holding the oak tiller against his hip, and listening to the rustle of water as it curved around the plump sides and the barn-door rudder and fell away astern without disturbance. There had been a heavy frost the night before and the air was damp. But during the next few hours the breeze freshened, the wetness dissipated, and the mainsail was reduced in area by being brailed up at the front bottom corner between mast and boom. Nevertheless Adriaan van Bergen, the skipper, thought it better to keep going with the flood tide under them. Every now and then a figure could be seen on the riverbanks, probably a cowherd or farmer, so far at least no soldiers from the outposts of the Spanish Army of Flanders. Before the ship came abreast of these strangers the man on the foredeck leaned down and loudly whispered, seemingly at the peat, the word "Silence!"

Not that you could hear much up on deck. The seventy or so men crouched below were indeed silent, pent up with their thoughts. They huddled together in almost total blackness, communicating by nudges and gestures, hands touching shoulders, occasionally reaching out to make sure their weapons were still there, within reach, on the barge's hefty ribs and the bottom boards that lined the hold. The few cracks in the stacked-up peat gave just enough light and air. It was the lack of air rather than of light that most affected the party; the strong thick smell of the peat made it feel like being buried in a compost heap, and the need to swallow or—worse—sneeze and cough occasionally overcame them.

It was Adriaan van Bergen's turfship. But its mission had been an idea floated before, by the late William of Orange, the revered if somewhat reluctant leader of the revolt against the Spanish overlords of the Netherlands. William had taken note of the fact that turf skippers could enter the walls of the occupied town of Breda most easily. Breda had been the home territory of the Orange-Nassau family. William, nicknamed the Silent because of his cautious habit of thinking a long time before acting, lips sealed, had fallen to an assassin's gun in Delft six years before, but his son and heir, prince Maurice, had taken up the turfship idea. He had made inquiries about an experienced skipper and van Bergen, one of a family of turf handlers from Leur, was recommended. Van Bergen also had a big enough ship. The Spanish had captured Breda in 1581, killing six hundred of its citizens and plundering the place; they had occupied it ever since, and Maurice was impatient to regain it. It was not only his family seat but a key link in the ring of walled towns and forts with which Spain encircled the northern rebellious provinces. The winter still not quite over had been a tough one; it was a matter of waiting for the castle garrison or town council to order a new load of fuel, which they must do soon. Meanwhile an assault force was put together. An experienced officer from Cambrai in the southern Netherlands, the mostly Spanish Netherlands, thirty-four-year-old Charles de Héraugiere, who wanted to prove his loyalty to the Orange-Nassau family, was given the command. Several meetings took place at secret locations to work out how and when the men would be embarked on the turfship. The unit was recruited by Count Philip van Hohenlohe, a relative of Maurice's by marriage, and Maurice from his palace at The Hague organized a force of about 4,600 men of the States army to be ready to take over the city if the surprise initial attack led by de Héraugiere was successful.

At the end of February 1590 it became known that a new shipment of peat had been ordered by Breda. Maurice—who was twenty-three—set off with his small army toward Dordrecht, although, because of spies everywhere, he attempted to get it known that he was going somewhere else. Gorinchem was mentioned. The governor of Breda, an Italian named Lanciavecchia, led an opposing force of the king of Spain's Army of Flanders toward Geertruidenberg, northeast of Breda, on the edge of the large area of river and swamp known as the Biesbos, thinking Maurice was heading there. In this time of haste and flurries of misinformation, the first attempt to embark the assault force went wrong; the blame fell on the skipper for "oversleeping" though overdrinking was more likely. The river Mark was tidal up to Breda and very low water then kept the turfship immobile for several days. But on the afternoon of Friday, March 2, the decision was made to go for it. On the following day van Bergen's heavily laden ship sailed up the channel to the north of a small island named Reygersbosch. Here a moveable barrier or boom controlled passage to the canal surrounding Breda's castle. Here guards waited in an outpost, and a brief inspection took place led by an Italian corporal, the guards seeing that the ship obviously carried the expected peat shipment. Then there was an uneasy period of waiting for the tide to rise high enough so that the ship could be moved in through the water gate. This was the worst time, the Dutch soldiers uneasy under their stack of peat, the leaky ship's bilges slowly filling with water that would soon need pumping out, de Héraugiere murmuring encouraging words to keep spirits up. But just after three p.m. the tide served. The ship's mast was lowered and the vessel was poled toward the quayside. Van Bergen now pumped away, the noise disguising some coughs coming from within the peat. At the quay a squad of Italian soldiers hauled on warps to bring the turfship in through a sort of tunnel under the walls to a sluis or lock that controlled the water level and thence into the little harbor within the castle. There the ship was moored alongside the arsenal. An impatient squad from the garrison climbed aboard to start unloading the peat.

"What's the hurry?" Adriaan van Bergen wanted to know. The beginning of Lent was approaching and a drink or two surely wouldn't come amiss. There was all day tomorrow to unload the cargo. To reinforce this idea he doled out some coins to the soldiers and the suggestion worked. Most of the garrison men went off to a hostelry in the town or to their barracks. Only one Italian was left on guard but he too was plied with beer and by midnight he was asleep. It was a quiet night. When van Bergen gave the word that the time was right, de Héraugiere's band silently climbed out from their peat stack one by one, adjusting their helmets and cuirasses, unsheathing their swords and axes, priming their guns, and formed up in two groups. The sleeping guard was knocked on the head and rendered truly unconscious. One party went toward the bastion by the harbor and the northwest gate. The other, led by de Héraugiere, headed for the gate that gave entry into the town. On the way they encountered a guard, who, surprised, at least remembered to ask "Qui va là?" The Dutchmen seized him and questioned him about the garrison, its size and its whereabouts. The facts were that the town was guarded by six companies formed by citizens and five vendels, which were mostly Italian. The castle itself was garrisoned only by a unit of some fifty men, led by the son of the governor, Paolo Antonio Lanciavecchia.

The Italian who was being questioned gave erratic answers: any number or location that came into his terrified head. He was killed. But the lethargic watch had now woken up. The alarm was sounded. Short battles took place at the guard houses by the outer gates. Those inside were shot through the windows. Young Lanciavecchia's men made a counterattack, but this was repelled. Their colleagues who had been partying in town tried to burn the outer gate but were forcibly prevented. Mopping up went on for some time, but by dawn the victory was evident. Thirty-seven Italians lost their lives and among the insurgents only one Dutchman, Hans van den Bosch, who fell into a canal and drowned. A number on both sides were badly injured. Paolo Lanciavecchia managed to negotiate the surrender of himself and some of his men, paying a hefty ransom. On the north side of the castle, the field gate was found to be frozen shut—warming it up by fire might have helped—but it was finally prized open and van Hohenlohe's vanguard let in, the first contingent of Maurice's small army. Trumpets sounded the Dutch anthem, the "Wilhelmus." Breda had been taken. The flags of Spain were hauled down and burned.

The burghers and magistrates of Breda thought it advisable to show how pleased they were. Bells were rung and thanksgiving services held in the Groot Kerk near the market square and in the many other churches in town. As the news spread, bonfires were lit in celebration all over the northern Netherlands. A feast was held in one of the town's best inns for the van Bergens, owners of the turfship...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Buy New View Book
List Price: US$ 32.00
US$ 9.34

Convert Currency

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.

Destination, Rates & Speeds

Add to Basket

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Anthony Bailey
Published by Henry Holt Company Inc, United States (2011)
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt Company Inc, United States, 2011. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. What began as propaganda art to celebrate a rare Spanish victory in the Eighty Years War with Holland, The Surrender at Breda is today recognized as Velazquez s narrative masterpiece. Breda is packed with vivid military detail - whole armies are suggested on the huge canvas, twelve feet high and eleven feet wide. Unlike typical surrender scenes, there is neither a heroic victor on horseback nor a vanquished commander on his knees. Instead the rivals appear on foot almost as equals. The loser bends forward to offer the key and receives a chivalrous pat on his shoulder, as if to say: Fortune has favoured me, but our roles might have been reversed. Anthony Bailey examines the paintings from which the artist arose, coaxing stories from them that flesh out a complete portrait of one of the world s major artists whose personal life has remained largely unknown. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780805088359

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.34
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Anthony Bailey
Published by Henry Holt Company Inc, United States (2011)
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt Company Inc, United States, 2011. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. What began as propaganda art to celebrate a rare Spanish victory in the Eighty Years War with Holland, The Surrender at Breda is today recognized as Velazquez s narrative masterpiece. Breda is packed with vivid military detail - whole armies are suggested on the huge canvas, twelve feet high and eleven feet wide. Unlike typical surrender scenes, there is neither a heroic victor on horseback nor a vanquished commander on his knees. Instead the rivals appear on foot almost as equals. The loser bends forward to offer the key and receives a chivalrous pat on his shoulder, as if to say: Fortune has favoured me, but our roles might have been reversed. Anthony Bailey examines the paintings from which the artist arose, coaxing stories from them that flesh out a complete portrait of one of the world s major artists whose personal life has remained largely unknown. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780805088359

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.65
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Bailey, Anthony
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
Mesilla Internet
(Mesilla, NM, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt and Co. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0805088350 New. Bookseller Inventory # Z0805088350ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.98
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.98
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Anthony Bailey
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (2011)
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt and Co., 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0805088350

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 32.08
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Bailey, Anthony
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (2011)
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt and Co., 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805088350

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 35.15
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 1.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Bailey, Anthony
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 10: 0805088350 ISBN 13: 9780805088359
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 4
Seller:
Diafan Media
(Geneva, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Henry Holt and Co. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0805088350 New Condition *** Right Off the Shelf | Ships within 2 Business Days ~~~ Customer Service Is Our Top Priority! - Thank you for LOOKING :-). Bookseller Inventory # 2BOOK2P151408

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 40.55
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.95
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds