Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez: Las lanzas/ The Surrender of Breda (1634-1635)

(Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain)

A painting by the Spanish artist Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 - 1660). The subject of the painting is the surrender of town of Breda to the Spanish army during the Dutch war of independence, the 80-years war (1568-1648). The town of Breda was conquered in 1590 by the Dutch army using a peat barge. Spinola wanted to retake the city for the Spanish empire and use it to retake other Dutch cities. The Dutch government had foreseen an attack on Breda and had strengthened its defenses with more troops, weapons and more fortifications. When Spinola attacked with a huge army of about 80,000 men (only 18,000 would be used in the siege itself), Breda was heavily fortified and strongly defended by a large and well prepared garrison of 7,000 men. The siege dragged on for about 9 months (28 August 1624 – 5 June 1625) and in the end Breda only surrendered after its resources had ran out. The painting shows the moment when Justin of Nassau, the Dutch commander of Breda, hands over the keys of the city to the Spanish forces. Spinola was impressed by the fierce and heroic defense by the Dutch forces and greeted and embraced Justin of Nassau with a kindly expression and still more kindly words, in which he praised the courage and endurance of the protracted defense. the terms of surrender also were very mild: the surviving Dutch forces (about 50% was killed) were allowed to leave armed, with their flags and to the sound of trumpets. The Spanish army was forbidden to jeer at, or otherwise abuse, the vanquished Dutch, and, according to a contemporary report, Spinola saluted Justin. The conquest of Breda was Spain's last major victory in the Netherlands in the Eighty Years' War. Breda itself was permanently retaken by the Dutch in 1637 after a siege of only 52 days. Painting from 1634-1635.