The Spears, or the Surrender of Breda

This painting was commissioned by Philip IV as one of the twelve battle scenes that were to adorn the hall known as the Salon de los Reinos in the Retiro Palace. Above them would hang the Twelve Labours of Hercules that Zurbaran had been commissioned to paint.

The nickname of The Spears comes from the lances or spears that can be seen in the background. The central figures are the defeated Justin of Nassau, who is offering the keys of the city to the victor, General Spinola who, in a noble gesture, stops Nassau from kneeling before him to offer him the keys. On the left and right are members of both armies. Each one constitutes a magnificent portrait. Two people stand out: the last man on the left, who is looking straight out at the viewer, and the last man on the right, which is believed to be a self -portrait of Velazquez. At his feet we can see a white sign where the artist would usually sign his name, but it has been proudly left blank because everybody already knew he was the King’s court painter. We can see here how men’s fashion had changed, with high ruff collars a thing of the past, and worn only by one man standing behind Spinola. They have been replaced by flat lace collars, which were much easier to wash and iron.

The horse in the foreground has been painted in an unusual position that is very hard to draw, and if we move around in front of the painting, it looks as if it is moving. Velazquez was not familiar with Holland, but he nevertheless painted its landscape most accurately.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns