GILLIS ROMBOUTS (Haarlem 1630 — Haarlem 1672)
The Announcement of the Peace Treaty of Münster in 1648 from the Balcony of the Town Hall of Haarlem
indistinctly signed with monogram over the archway in the right center
oil on panel
30 5/8 ×43 ¼ inches (77.7 cm×110 cm)
Anonymous sale, A. Mak Auctioneers, Dordrecht, October 24-26, 1916, lot 141, illustrated
Dr. Ira A. M. de Wild, ’s-Gravenhage
Jacob Hartog, New York, and thus by descent in the family to the
Estate of Henriette Hammond
The Peace of Münster ended the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic (1568-1648), and was the most important peace treaty of the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, as it marked their recognition as a sovereign state. It occurred on January 30, 1648, but was only announced on June 5th of that year, resulting in widespread celebrations throughout the country. Haarlem’s solemnity and joy are forever captured in this very detailed and architecturally exacting recreation of the announcement.
The view of the Market Square or Grote Markt that Gillis Rombouts painted remains today virtually unchanged. The most dominant architectural feature is the Town Hall erected on the site of a residence built in 1250 by Count William II of Holland. In 1351 it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt possibly incorporating some of the original walls. A brick building, the oldest part dates from the mid-fourteenth century, marked by its battlemented parapet and high roof. Its main hall is still called the Gravenzaal or Count’s Hall. Its entrance, cross-windows and balcony are changes done after 1630. Visible in our work but not today, are nesting boxes for storks along the top of the roof. Protruding to the right of this section is a fifteenth century addition with rising blind arches. Next to it, and extending even further into the square, is a three-bays wide structure with a steeped gable and stone pilasters in four tiers divided by horizontal entablatures. Built circa 1630, it is an example of the Dutch Renaissance style of its architect Lieven de Key, who also designed the Vleeshal in the same square.
The front balcony of this building is now gone, but was used by city officials for announcements. In our painting the large tapestry that hangs below the balcony was commissioned in 1629 from the weaver Joseph Tienpot, after designs by Nicholas von Wieringen and Cornelis Holstein. Approximately ten meters long it depicts the Capture of Damiate in Egypt in 1188. When draped below the balcony it signaled an important event. Above the balcony, on the next level, stands a statue of Justice and above it the coat-of-arms of Haarlem. The white flag flying from the bell tower (which was torn down in 1772 and re-erected in 1914) indicates the announcement of a peace treaty.
The wing to the right of Lieven de Key’s addition is again slightly later and an example of Dutch Classicism. The street between this section of the building and the row of gabled houses to the right is the Zijlstraat. To the left of the Town Hall is the arched entranceway to the Grote Houstraat. Rombouts’s overall view of the square starts about 25 meters in front of the church of St. Bavo, which dominates the other side of the Grote Markt.
Rombouts is known to have depicted the announcement of the peace in the Haarlem Market Square several times with varying figural groups. The only one on public display is in the Michaelis Collection, Cape Town, South Africa (inventory number 14/50). It has been suggested that these paintings were possibly based on an etching by Jan van de Velde II (c. 1593-1641), after a drawing by Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665), entitled The City Hall at the Market Square, Haarlem, published in Samuel Ampzing’s Beschryvinge ende lof der stad Haerlem in 1628; although ours and the panel in the Michaelis Collection clearly depict architectural changes made after 1630.
Very little is known about the life of Rombouts. A master in the Haarlem guild by 1652, he mainly painted landscapes as well as market and town scenes. Occasionally he portrayed craftsmen, shoemakers or weavers in their cottages. His son and follower was Salomon Rombouts (1652 – circa 1702).
Marijke C. de Kinkelder has confirmed the work to be by Gillis Rombouts. We are indebted to her as well as Fred G. Meijer for their assistance in the writing of this entry.