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Jan van Goyen, Dutch, 1596-1656

The Fortress at Gennep with Military Encampment, c. 1645-55 

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

Pieter Nolpe, after Jan Martszen II, The Departure of the Spanish Garrison from Gennep [detail]
Fig. 37.1

Pieter Nolpe, after Jan Mart­szen II, The Depar­ture of the Span­ish Gar­ri­son from Gen­nep [detail], 1641. Engrav­ing, 205 × 302 mm [this plate only]. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. RP-P-OB-24.631.

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.

End Notes

  1. 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.

  2. For a his­to­ry of the Gen­neper­huis, see Van den Brand & Man­ders 2002.

  3. For Esa­ias van de Velde’s impor­tance for mil­i­tary imagery, see Keyes 1984, 103 – 15.

  4. See F. M. B. van der Maas in Delft 1998, 40 – 53.

  5. Israel 1995, 506 – 46; and De León 2009.

  6. Israel 1995, 541.

  7. For some of the prints that were issued as a result of the siege, see Delft 1998, 263 – 64, nos. 19 – 20.

  8. Holl­stein, 223 – 26; and Delft 1998, 264, no. 20. For the prepara­to­ry draw­ing by Mart­szen, see H. Ver­beek in Ams­ter­dam 2015, no. 39.

  9. 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.

  10. For Beck­’s result­ing map, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 285.

  11. 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.

  12. For this process, see I. van Tuinen in Wash­ing­ton & Paris 2016 – 17.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.