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Jan van Goyen, Dutch, 1596-1656:
The Fortress at Gennep with Military Encampment, c. 1645-55
Black chalk with light brown wash on paper.
6 13⁄16 × 11 in. (17.3 × 28 cm)
- Chain Lines:
- Horizonal, 24 – 25 mm.
- Horn (Posthorn), in cartouche with letters PM below. Possibly the same found on other drawings by Van Goyen, cf. Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 329, fi g. 19; and Schapelhouman & Schatborn 1998, no. W127 (cat. 182, signed and dated 1653). Similar to Laurentius & Laurentius 2007, vol. 1, no. 595 (document dated 1648). See Chapel Hill, Ithaca & Worcester 1999 – 2001, 129, no. R14.
A. C. Bowring; his sale, Sotheby’s, London, 23 February 1955, lot 44; Mathias Komor, 1909 – 1984, New York (Lugt 1882a, stamp on verso); dealer, Marion Hammer, Lugano; sale, Christie’s, Amsterdam, 15 November 1983, lot 58; dealer, Johnny van Haeften, London; dealer, Robert Noortman, London and Maastricht; sale, Christie’s, Amsterdam, 25 November 1992, lot 577; Sheldon and Leena Peck, Boston (Lugt 3847); gift to the Ackland Art Museum, inv. no. 2017.1.41.
Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1 (1972), 249, no. 825A; Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 3 (1987), 116 – 17, no. 825A; F. Robinson in Chapel Hill, Ithaca & Worcester 1999 – 2001, 60 – 61, no. 14.
- Ackland Catalogue:
Jan van Goyen regularly embarked on sketching trips throughout the Netherlands and often used his topographic drawings to create more finished works like this one later in his studio. More than 100 figures populate this sheet, situated in and around a military encampment at the fortress of Gennep. Located in the east of the Netherlands near the German border, the stronghold was instrumental to the Dutch after its recapture from the Spanish in 1641 during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648). Its fame as a wartime site prompted Van Goyen to visit during his travels from 1650 to 1651. Although ten years had passed since the fortress’s recovery, the artist may have seen a remaining strategic military presence there, or perhaps patriotically reimagined the fortress as it was in its heyday.
This sheet was known to Hans-Ulrich Beck, who extensively catalogued Jan van Goyen’s drawings, but the site was first identified by Sheldon Peck when the work was in his collection.1
It depicts the fortress at Gennep (known as the Genneperhuis) in the east of the Netherlands near the border with Germany.2
The enormous number of figures, totaling well over 100, reflects the type of population and activity found in such a military encampment. The subject draws upon a tradition of military imagery pioneered by his teacher, Esaias van de Velde (1587 – 1630), but less commonly practiced by Van Goyen himself.3
Although almost nothing remains of the fortress today, for centuries it proved a strategically important stronghold at the confluence of the Maas and Niers Rivers. It was especially important during the last phase of the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648), when the army of the States-General, led by Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik (1584 – 1647), recaptured the fortress from the Spanish on July 29, 1641. As with many other sieges, the public followed closely the drawn-out drama of this newsworthy event, always with great hopes and expectations.4
Gennep fell after only one month, and Frederik Hendrik’s success there was one of a chain of victories late in the Revolt, including Breda (1637), Sas van Gent (1644), and Hulst (1645), that ultimately led to the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648 and the full independence of the Dutch Republic.5
Modern history has downplayed the victory at Gennep as one of the few that Frederik Hendrik enjoyed in these years, since his lack of other successes at the time was used as justification by the States-General to reduce the size of the army.6
The response among the general public, however, was evidently quite enthusiastic (probably for the same reason; they had waited four years after the previous victory at Breda).7
In addition to a number of images of the Siege of Gennep that publishers issued in maps and prints, the event also featured in one of the more spectacular types of works encountered in the era’s wartime imagery, an uittocht (or “departure”), a large-scale panoramic print that depicts the procession of defeated troops leaving the fortress Fig. 37.1.8
Van Goyen’s drawing dates a full decade after these events. Furthermore, it does not conform to standard visual formulas found in images made during the war in that it shows the army camped in and around the fortress as one apparently settled in after victory rather than besieging it beforehand. The reason for this iconographic divergence might relate to Van Goyen’s timing. Based on art historical evidence, two points can be established: that Van Goyen had the chance to visit the site personally in late 1650 or early 1651, and that he very likely made the drawing itself in 1651.
In June 1650, Van Goyen embarked on a voyage down the Rhine River, ultimately reaching Cleves across the border in Germany before returning back home by March 1651 at the latest. The trip is well-documented through dozens of surviving leaves from a now-dismantled sketchbook he took with him, the so-called Lilienfeld sketchbook, named after the dealer who dispersed the final leaves in 1957 (with others apparently removed earlier).9
The original number of drawings and their order remain unclear, but enough surviving sheets allowed Beck to reliably reconstruct Van Goyen’s route based on inscriptions and topographical evidence.10
It appears that Van Goyen remained in Cleves for some time and took day trips to sketch sites nearby. Although no sketch of the fortress or the nearby town of Gennep can be identified among the remaining leaves of the Lilienfeld sketchbook, it would have been relatively easy to reach, being just three hours walking distance southwest of Cleves. Freedom of movement in these formerly dangerous areas likely would have been part of the appeal of such a journey in the first place, as well as the chance to visit famous wartime sites such as this one.11
None of Van Goyen’s other long sketching trips reached this 158 159 far east, as far as we know, and it seems logical to conclude that he visited Gennep on this occasion.
Van Goyen often used his sketches to make more finished drawings like this one in the studio.12
That he did so sometime in 1651 is highly probable based on an observation made by Beck that in this particular year Van Goyen was in the habit of applying touches of light brown wash to his drawings.13
They can be found here in the foreground, and on the tent at the right. This date is also supported by the watermark, which appears on two other drawings, both signed and dated 1651.14
It marked the beginning of Van Goyen’s famously prolific period of drawing, with over 350 of some 800 finished sheets coming from 1651 to 1653, many of which, like this one, he generated from his numerous observations of people and places made during his recently completed journey across the country. It is unclear whether he would have actually encountered a military encampment like this at Gennep in 1650 – 51, or whether he somewhat patriotically imagined it, but it is entirely plausible that some sort of large-scale military presence would have remained in place at this strategically important fortress in the early years just after the war ended in 1648.
Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 249, no. 825A, vol. 3, 116 – 17, no. 825A (as Soldaten lagern am Flußufer bei einem Turm). For Sheldon Peck’s identification of the site, based on a painting by Salomon van Ruysdael dated 1665, see the entry by F. Robinson in Chapel Hill, Ithaca & Worcester 1999 – 2001, 60 – 61, no. 14.
For a history of the Genneperhuis, see Van den Brand & Manders 2002.
For Esaias van de Velde’s importance for military imagery, see Keyes 1984, 103 – 15.
See F. M. B. van der Maas in Delft 1998, 40 – 53.
Israel 1995, 506 – 46; and De León 2009.
Israel 1995, 541.
For some of the prints that were issued as a result of the siege, see Delft 1998, 263 – 64, nos. 19 – 20.
Hollstein, 223 – 26; and Delft 1998, 264, no. 20. For the preparatory drawing by Martszen, see H. Verbeek in Amsterdam 2015, no. 39.
For the Lilienfeld sketchbook, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 285 – 315, no. 847; Buijsen 1993, 12; and E. Buijsen in Leiden 1996, 28 – 31. See also a recent reassembly of twenty-seven drawings from the Lilienfeld sketchbook offered for sale in toto in the dealer catalogue by Mireille Mosler (pdf format, January 2021), with commentary on the drawings and recent provenances.
For Beck’s resulting map, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 285.
Van Goyen also made a panoramic sketch of the Schenkenschans on this trip, the site of a famously long siege in 1635 – 36 that likewise resulted in a Dutch victory; for which see Beck, no. 847/43; and E. Buijsen in Leiden 1996, 30, fi g. 29.
For this process, see I. van Tuinen in Washington & Paris 2016 – 17.
Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 52. For some other examples, see Plomp 1997, no. 167; Schapelhouman & Schatborn 1998, no. 171; Turner 2006, no. 89; and Turner & White 2014, nos. 76 – 77.
For the watermark, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 328 – 29, fi g. 19. It also appears on Beck, nos. 209, 270, both in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.