Pieter Meulener was one of the most important Flemish battle scene painters from the first half of the 17th century. The Low Countries and Central Europe were devastated by terrible religeous wars between Catholics and Protestants.
The Battle of Nördlingen of 1634 was one of the turning points of these wars: the Protestants lost and the Swedish field marshal, Count Gustav Horn, was made prisoner. The next year France enterred into the conflict against its ennemy Spain. By 1648 a peace treaty was signed and King Louis XIV emerged on the European scene.
About Pieter Meulener
Sometimes called “Meuleneer”
Antwerp 1602 – 1654 Antwerp
Battle scene painter and occasionally painter of genre scenes in landscapes.
Pupil of his father, Jan Molenaer (who is not to be confused with the homonymous Dutch genre painter) and of Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573 -1647).
Master in the Painters’ Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp in the year 1631/32.
His early works are influenced by Vrancx, although his colouring stands closer to Pieter Snayers (1592 – after 1666), also a former pupil of Vrancx
and Master since 1612/13.
After 1645 Meulener’s colouring became clearer, as he fell under the influence of Dutch battle scene painters, such as Pieter de Neyn, Jan Jacobsz. van der Stoffe and Abraham van der Hoeff, but especially of Palamedes Palamedesz., in so far that their works can be confused.
The historic background of the First Battle of Nördlingen
During the Thirty Years’ War two important battles were fought near Nördlingen, which lays in Swabia, in Bavaria: “ours” in 1634 and a second one in 1645 near the village of Alerheim.
The Thirty Years’ War was an extremely bloody and destructive war that ravaged through Central Europe between 1618 and 1648.
It started when Northern German and Bohemian Protestants no longer accepted the religious intolerance of the zealous Catholic, Habsburg, Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II (1578 – 1637).
This “civil war” between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League soon become a full-scale European territorial war between Habsburg states (the Holy Roman Empire and Spain) and its allies (Bavaria), against the anti-Habsburg states (such as Sweden and France).
The Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648) which finally lead to the recognition by Catholic Spain of an independent Dutch republic of the Seven Provinces), had also started as a religious uprising.
The Thirty and the Eighty Years’ Wars both ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In both wars France has played a decisive role and as a result that country became an increasingly dominant player in the European theatre, while the Habsburg powers, especially Spain, weakened.
Another important key player in the Thirty Years’ War was Sweden.
After Catholic troops destroyed and occupied large parts of Lutheran, N. Germany and Denmark, Sweden (also a Protestant nation) was obliged to enter the War in 1630. The Swedes won several battles under King Gustavus Adolphus. His troops won his last battle, near Lützen (1632), but the king himself died there. Lacking their strategic genius the Swedes lost two years later the Battle of Nördlingen (1634).
In 1635 France entered the War on the Protestant side. For some years now Cardinal Richelieu had supported Sweden financially. A large number of battles were fought all over Europe with varying success, but both Habsburg powers and their Catholic alley Bavaria reached their breaking point against France and Sweden. The Peace Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 ended both the Thirty and the Eighty Years’ War, while the Franco-Spanish War lasted until 1659.
About the First Battle of Nördlingen in 1634
The First Battle of Nördlingen was fought between the Protestant armies of Sweden and their German Protestant allies against the Catholic Armies from the Holy Roman Empire, the Italian troops of the Spanish Habsburg Empire and those of the Bavarian League.
The Protestant commanders were Count Gustav Horn af Björneborg and Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, the Catholic commanders were Ferdinand of Hungary (the son and successor of Ferdinand II) and Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand (the son of Philip III of Spain).
Two years after the loss of their king, Gustavus Adolphus (Gustav II Adolf), Swedish troops and their Protestant allies had invaded Bavaria.
They could not prevent the merger of two Habsburg armies near Nördlingen, who got now in superior numbers.
The Protestants lost:
- because they underestimated the numbers of their opponents;
- because their commanders disagreed on everything;
- because anything that could go wrong went wrong during battle;
- because the Spanish Infantry fought like demons.
As a result the Swedish army was destroyed and its commander, Gustav Horn, was made prisoner.
About Count Gustav Horn
1592 – 1657
Just like his father Horn became field marshal of the Swedish army. King Gustavus Adolphus elevated him to this rank when he was only 35 years old, three years before the country entered the Thirty Years’ War.
His forces were crushed at the First Battle of Nördlingen in 1634 and he was made a prisoner. He stayed imprisoned in Burghausen Castle in Upper Bavaria for eight years until he was exchanged for three Catholic generals.
Horn returned to Sweden and to his military tasks: he took Scania (today’s Sweden Southernmost province) on Denmark and organized the defense of Sweden against a Polish invasion.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an important historic document.