HELST, Bartholomeus van der
(b. 1613, Haarlem, d. 1670, Amsterdam)

Celebration of the Peace of Münster, 1648, at the Crossbowmen's Headquarters

Oil on canvas, 232 x 547 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In the second half of the 1640s not a single Dutch portraitist, including Van der Helst, tried to emulate Rembrandt's revolutionary achievement, the Night Watch. Their group portraits are all clearly and sharply delineated collective portraits giving each man his due. The interest of Dutch artists and their clients in detailed portrayals won the day. The inclination towards brighter colouring which became popular during the forties by the influence of Van Dyck's followers, came to the fore and found favour with the public.

This group portrait shows the banquet held by the St George's Guard to celebrate the Peace of Münster which put an end to the Eighty Years' War on the 18th of June, 1648. In this painting Van der Helst succeeded in portraying no fewer than 25 people grouped around a table. To the right we see the captain (holding a silver drinking-horn) and the lieutenant congratulating each other on the successful outcome. On the drum, the artist painted a sheet of paper bearing the words of a poem in praise of peace.

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