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Embarkation of Spanish Troops

Oil paintings

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Object ID BHC0745
Description This night scene allows van Eertvelt to demonstrate his artistic and dramatic skills. Against bright moonlight, a Spanish fleet prepares to embark from an imaginary Mediterranean coast. On the right the mountainous landscape rises from water-level and stretches into the distance. Trees and buildings seem to catch the moonlight and emerge from the dark. The ships, lit from behind by the full moon, cast large, looming silhouettes across the water. The embarking fleet includes large men-of-war, in stern-view, on the right and in the centre. Also a large galley occupies the left foreground. Painted in brown tones, the brushstrokes are somewhat sketchy in places. These sketchy additions are in direct contrast with the careful detail in the ships and the strong red highlights, which seem to emerge from the canvas, particularly on the oars of the galley. There is an overall effect of enveloping night and darkness. The decks are populated by myriad figures and soldiers are being ferried to the large ships. In the dramatically torch-lit right foreground, officers accompanied by a large train of followers, including ladies, musicians and soldiers bearing flags and weapons, take their leave. The historic event depicted in this painting remains obscure and it may be an imaginary scene which may be intended to convey a general sense of heroism. Van Eertvelt stayed in the Southern Netherlands, which had remained under Spanish rule, despite his apparent success with Dutch clients (BHC0748). Here, he would have found his patrons among the Spanish governors, who wanted to see visual celebrations of their naval and military might. In another Mediterranean capriccio, showing a seafight between European merchantmen and Ottoman galleasses, van Eertvelt played a similar composition. Although this scene does not take place at night and lacks the same emphasis on human activity. Andries van Eertvelt was born in Antwerp in 1590, where he joined the Guild of St Luke as a master in 1609/10. He is generally seen as the first Flemish marine painter of the seventeenth century. However his work reflects the enduring influence of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. There is a discernible ‘Dutch’ influence in van Eertvelt’s work, which may have come from Hendrick Vroom, despite van Eertvelt not necessarily having been Vroom’s pupil. Between 1628 and 1630, Eertvelt lived in Italy. During this time, he stayed with the painter Cornelis de Wael in Genoa. After his residence in Italy, van Eertvelt was painted by van Dyck in 1632. His high reputation is reflected in the celebration of his work in Cornelis de Bie’s 'Het Gulden Cabinet van de Edel Vry Schilderconst' (The Golden Cabinet of the Honourable Free Art of Painting). His pupils reputedly included Hendrick van Minderhout, Matthieu van Plattenberg, Sebastian Castro and Kasper van Eyck. In this painting, van Eertvelt’s originally bright, mannerist style has changed and he adopts a larger format and a softer and more subtle palette. These changes hint at a date after the artist's return from Italy in 1630.
Date made 1630s

Artist/Maker Eertvelt, Andries van
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Painting: 749 x 1219 mm; Frame: 955 mm x 1429 mm x 85 mm
  • Embarkation of Spanish Troops (BHC0745)
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