Tuesday, 4 April 2017

"18th century Dutch school battle scene" is Siege of Antwerp

Horta, from Belgium, sells on 24 April 2017 an "18th century Dutch School" battle scene, estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 Euro.

The painting is rather naive, and purely artistically not worth the estimate by far, but it gets interesting nevertheless because the city in the background seems to be a rather correct depiction of Antwerp ca. 1600. This would make it a depiction of the 1584-1585 siege of the city by the Spanish troops. Whether the painting really is Dutch 18th century is hard to tell, 17th century seems more likely.

The huge central tower, with the small tower just in front of it, is the Antwerp Cathedral, still today the most impressive landmark of the city.

This image is a reverse view, as I wasn't able to easily find  an old image taken from about the same spot (this painting is taken from the south, the image above from the North, but most old paintings are taken from the West, across the harbor, which still is the best position to look at Antwerp).

This map gives an aerial view from about the same place as the work for sale.

Why the soldiers on the right seem to be shooting a group of people returning to the city, or why the people returning are still calmly going on instead of running for their lives, is rather unclear.

Pieter Meulener, Siege of Antwerp
The style of the work reminds somewhat of the works of Pieter Meulener and the like, but isn't good enough to really be attributed to any known painter. For a work depicting a generic battle, the price is too high: for an old (though probably not contemporary) depiction of the Battle of Antwerp though, it may well be justified; views of Antwerp sometimes fetch prices much higher than the artistic merit would justify.

UPDATE: a reader of the blog kindly sent me a link to a file at RKD which I missed, but which confirms the " reminds somewhat of the works of Pieter Meulener" statement I made above: the work for sale is a copy of or variation of that painting, which was sold at Piasa (France) in 1997 for 130,000 FRF (near to 20,000 Euro). It depicts the Entrance of the Cardinal-Infant Ferdinand in Antwerp, which means that the people shooting at the "retreating troops" which baffled me, are probably soldiers firing blanks as a honorary salute. The Entrance happened in 1635, so the painting in any case is later than that! So, right city, right painter, wrong occasion; I can live with that ;-)

Other copies of the work  sometimes appear at auction: the above example is very rudimentary though. A version was sold at Tajan in 1998 for 85,000 French Francs, or some 12,000 Euro; another version was offered in 2004 at the same house, but didn't make its 30,000 Euro estimate.

UPDATE 2: sold for 4,600 Euro, clearly below estimate


  1. The last painting you show is the siege of 's-Hertogenbosch by Hendrick de Meijer.

  2. Thanks! I went with the older descriptions, I wasn't aware that new research had uncovered the correct artist and subject of that one! I might have noticed that the Cathedral of Antwerp doesn't have such a large central tower as this painting shows (it has a small and rather low central tower, just like the painting for sale has).