Velázquez's The Surrender of Breda was part of a huge decoration project commissioned by the Spanish minister, count Olivares. In 1630, even as Spain was sinking ever deeper into political and economic mire, Olivares decided to glorify the image of the Spanish court by building a new pleasure palace just east of Madrid, known today as the Buen Retiro.
This project developed into a whole complex of buildings, alleys, gardens, fountains and chapels which was devoted to various forms of courtly spectacle, including theatre and musical performances, tournaments and jousts, and the fine arts (sculpture, painting, and tapestry).
One of the greatest challenges of developing this fantastic complex, of course, was the decoration. Olivares made use of hundreds of paintings in the royal collection that had been brought to Spain from Italy and Flanders, but for the most important room in the palace, the Hall of Realms, Olivares wanted something particularly magnificent.
Olivares thus commissioned three separate cycles of paintings for the Hall of Realms: twelve paintings depicting Spanish victories under Philip IV, ten paintings from the life of Hercules (the god claimed by virtually every major European dynasty as the founder of their families), and a group of five equestrian portraits portraying Philip III and Margaret of Austria, Philip IV and Isabella of Bourbon, and the crown prince Baltasar Carlos. These portraits were intended to establish the legitimacy of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty and illustrate their succession to the throne.
Velázquez was not the only artist who was put to work to execute these numerous commissions. In fact, the busiest artist of all was his contemporary, fellow star of the Spanish Baroque, Francisco Zurbaran, who was in charge of the Hercules series and a battle scene, The Defence of Cadiz Against the English.
Velázquez was given the task of executing the equestrian portraits and one battle scene, The Surrender of Breda, which would depict the historical event of ten years ago described above. This work definitively constitutes the most important and most daring of all the paintings in the Hall of Realms, and has gone down in history as one of Velázquez's best and most intriguing paintings.
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|Title||The Surrender of Breda, or „The Lances“|
Español: La obra representa el momento en que Justino de Nassau rindió la ciudad de Breda, en 1625, a las tropas españolas al mando del general Ambrosio Spínola, que aparece recibiendo las llaves de la ciudad de manos de su enemigo.
Français : Huile sur toile peinte entre 1634 et 1635 par Diego Vélasquez (musée du Prado, à Madrid).
|Medium||oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||Height: 307 cm (3.3 yd); Width: 367 cm (4 yd)|
|1st floor, room 009A|
|Object history||Colección Real (Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, 1701, [nº 244]; Palacio Real Nuevo, antecámara de la serenísima infanta, 1772, nº 244; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, pieza de vestir, 1794, nº 244; Palacio Real, Madrid, [1ª] pieza de vestir, 1814-1818, nº 244).|
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