Our painting represents a Flemish guardroom scene: tired, old soldiers listen to a young officer reading to them a letter. In front of him old weaponry, a Spanish flag and some war drums. The Spanish Dutch War ended in 1648 with the independance of the Dutch Republic. Might this officer read to his men th official message of the end of the war.
About Gillis van Tilborgh II
Brussels? circa 1625 – circa 1678 Brussels
Sometimes his first name is spelt ‘Aegidius’.
Painter of genre scenes (both low life and more elegant, noble companies) and of portraits. He also painted a few biblical scenes and gallery pictures.
Pupil of his father, Gillis the elder and probably also of David Teniers II.
From 1654 onwards member of the Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in Brussels.
In 1666 van Tilborgh became keeper of the court paintings and of the castle of Tervuren (South of Brussels).
Around 1670 he travelled to England.
His genre scenes were influenced by David Teniers II and by Joos van Craesbeeck (and through both of them by Adriaen Brouwer), his portraits by Gonzales Coques.
About our painting
Our painting represents the interior of a guardroom.
Until 1648 the Eighty Years’ War was fought in the Spanish Netherlands.
It ended with the final recognition, by catholic Spain, of the independent, largely protestant Republic of the Seven United Provinces. Flanders remained Spanish and catholic.
As an independent sub division of genre painting guardroom scenes were rather rare in 17th century Flemish painting. We know only of one, very rare painter, who specialised in it: Jean Baptiste Tyssens.
In Dutch painting it really evolved to become a popular subject with several specialists active in this domain: Jacob Duck, Pieter Codde, Willem Duyster, Jan Olis, but above all Anthonie Palamedesz..
After the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609 – 1621) the Eighty Years’ War had evolved towards a slow war of sieges. In between and during these sieges there were long periods of inactivity, which the contemporary painters portrayed with a lot of sense for psychology.
In French a guardroom is called ‘un corps-de-garde’, which in Dutch evolved towards ‘een kortegaerden’.
For as far as we know our painting is unique in the oeuvre of Gillis van Tilborgh the Younger; it is his only guardroom scene, so it must have been a special command.
Van Tilborgh represented an officer reading a letter for four men, amidst a pile of weapons and a war standard. It is remarkable that both our painter and his presumed master, David Teniers II, in his guardroom scene datable around 1646 (from the Art Institute of Chicago), paint out of date armours. Indeed the use of metal armours, breast plates and helmets ran out of fashion in the 1620s and very early 1630s. Swift reactions became more important than maximum protection, especially to cavalrymen, who preferred to wear thick velvet coats. We should not forget the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, ending the War, was signed in 1648. Our painting might therefore well be an early work by Gillis van Tilborgh II, who was born around 1625.
Now we are entering the world of wishful thinking. Could our painting represent an officer telling his old, tired soldiers, with their out of date armours, the War has finally ended? In the door opening one might see an orange, Dutch flag, while on the walls there are traces of orange/ochre paint.
But then again the soldiers seem to be cold, while the Peace of Westphalia was signed in Munster in Germany May 15th. One should not forget temperatures were not as mild as today for Europe went through a mini Ice Age (explaining why for example in 17th century Dutch painting you have so many scenes with ice skaters and so few with people bathing).
Or are these warriors not Flemish, but Spanish … and cold.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a great study in applied psychology: tired, old soldiers amidst their out-dated weapons.