THE PEACE OF WESTPHALIA 1648 (C1)
Ter Boch: Treaty of Munster – National Gallery, London; Helena van der Schalke – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; The Letter – Alte Pinakothek, Munich; The Concert – Gemaldegalerie, Berlin; Woman writing a letter -
xxxxxThe Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, marked the end of the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire under the Habsburgs, and the emergence of France as the major power in Europe. The Netherlands, the Swiss Federation, and the principalities of the Holy Roman Empire gained their independence, and Sweden took control of the Baltic Sea area. On the religious question, the Lutherans and Catholics in Germany were at last given equal rights. But the new map of Europe had been achieved at an enormous cost. Over the thirty years, vast areas of the continent had been devastated, thousands had been killed or wounded, and the suffering and the savagery had been on a large scale.
xxxxxThe Peace of Westphalia, the settlement which concluded the Thirty Years' War in 1648, was so named because negotiations took place at Munster and Osnabruck, two cities within the province. In round terms, it marked the end of the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire under the Habsburgs -
xxxxxOn the thorny religious question -
xxxxxThe peace settlement aside, the ferocity unleashed by the Thirty Years’ War left vast areas of central Europe, and particularly Germany, devastated and depopulated. The deployment of more powerful artillery, and the use of firearms with a much faster rate of fire -
xxxxxInx1633 the French engraver and etcher Jacques Callot (c1592-
xxxxxThexGerman writer Jacob Christoph Grimmelshausen (c1621-
xxxxxOut of this carnage and confusion on the continent was produced a new map. Save for Germany -
xxxxxThe Dutch Baroque artist Gerard Ter Borch (1617-
xxxxxThe painting entitled The Swearing of the Oath of Ratification of the Treaty of Munster (illustrated above) provides a brilliant pictorial record of the delegates of Holland and Spain, gathered at Munster to recognise Dutch independence -
xxxxxHis genre pieces, together with an equal number of portraits, are quite small in scale, but this does not detract from the close detail achieved, his brilliant rendering of light, tone and texture, and his rich but delicate colouring. The overall effect of his paintings is one of calm, genteel elegance. Notable works include, (illustrated below), the charming portrait of Helena van der Schalke as a Child, The Letter, The Concert, and Woman writing a letter.
xxxxxTer Borch was born at Zwolle and studied at Haarlem. He visited England in 1635, and then travelled extensively on the continent. From 1646 he spent three years in Munster, his stay coinciding with the peace congress then being held in the city. Then, after a stay in Madrid, he returned to his homeland in about 1655 and spent his last years in Deventer, serving as a member of the town council for part of that time.