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The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez

1635, oil on canvas, 307 X 367 cm. Madrid, Prado Museum -Spain
To celebrate the Spanish reconquest of the city of Flanders, Diego Velasquez painted The Surrender of Breda. Due to the strong image represented in the painting in the past it was also called The Spears




DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y VELÁZQUEZ [Sevilla (Spain), 1599 - Madrid (Spain), 1660] 
On June 5, 1625 the Dutch governor of Breda, Justinus van Nassau, surrendered the keys of that city to Ambrosio Spínola, the Genoese general commanding the Spanish tercios (a group of soldiers that included pikemen, swordsmen and musketeers) of Flanders. Breda`s extraordinary strategic importance made it one of the most disputed cities in the Spanish monarchy`s prolonged war against the United Provinces of the North. Its conquest after a lengthy siege was considered a military accomplishment of the first order, generating a plethora of texts and images intended to exalt the winners. It is therefore not surprising that the decision to decorate the Buen Retiro Palace`s Hall of Realms with a series of paintings narrating the military triumphs of Philip IV`s reign called for a depiction of what was probably the most resounding victory of all. Nor is it any surprise that Velázquez, who was then the court`s most prestigious painter, was commissioned to paint it. As with his equestrian portrait of Philip IV, the artist proudly declares his authorship and his stylistic singularity on a sheet of bank paper appearing in the composition`s lower right corner. The painting`s dimensions, the importance of the event it depicts and the significance of the hall where it was to hang all encouraged the painter to put his best efforts into this work, offering proof of his extraordinary faculties. Additional pressure came from the competitive context, as the Hall of Realms included works by the court`s most outstanding artists. Velázquez met the challenge with a masterpiece that reveals not only his extraordinary descriptive gifts and mastery of aerial perspective, but also his narrative skills and his capacity to place all of a painting`s elements at the service of a specific content.

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