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Battle Scene

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Haarlem (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1630 or 1636 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Martszen, Jan II the younger (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, Bt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case SC2, shelf EAST

Jan Martszen the Younger (ca. 1607-after 1647) lived mainly in Haarlem but was also active in Amsterdam and Delft. He specialised in military skirmishes scenes and provided, during the 1630s and 1640s, a series of design for prints published in Amsterdam by Pieter Nolpe (1613/14-1652/3), sharing commissions at times with Pieter and Paulus Potter, Pieter Quast and Bartholomeus Breenbergh. He was the presumed master of Jan Asselijn (ca.1615-52), leading member of the 'second generation' of Dutch Italianate painters, who started as a battle painter.

The painting shows a battle scene presented as warfare rather than proper combat. A lone tree in the foreground is used as a repoussoir device so as to draw the attention on the riding soldier, about to join the tangle of soldiers fighting in the background, as well as to provide the picture with a stronger sense of depth. Characteristic of Dutch battle scene paintings and more specifically of Martszen's production are the small-scale format and the absence of precise historical context. The artists of that period intended to render the generic idea of the contemporary Eighty Years' War rather than particular episodes.

Physical description

A battle scene with a lone tree and a cavalier in the foreground and a number of soldiers in a landscape in the background.

Place of Origin

Haarlem (probably, painted)


1630 or 1636 (painted)


Martszen, Jan II the younger (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Marks and inscriptions

'JM [monogram] D. Jonge 163(0) or (6)'
Signed and dated by the artist, beneath tree; last digit of date indistinct


Height: 32 cm estimate, Width: 43 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, Bart., 1901
Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (1837-1914) was born in London, the son of William Lawrence, Alderman. He was educated at University College School, University College London (BA, 1861 and LLB with honours). He married Edith Jane Durning Smith in 1874, the daughter and co-heiress of politician John Benjamin Smith. During 1867, Durning-Lawrence was called to Middle Temple and also was a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works for a short time, as well as a Lieutenant for the City of London and a Justice of the Peace in Berkshire. He was elected as Liberal Unionist member of Parliament for Truro in 1895; a position he held until 1906. Durning-Lawrence's main interest was literature, especially the Bacon/ Shakespeare controversy; he was the author of Bacon is Shakespeare (1910) and The Shakespeare Myth (1912). In 1901 he gave to the V&A thirteen paintings, museum numbers 620 to 633-1901.

Historical significance: This signed and dated work of 1630 or 1636 depicts a cavalry skirmish. It is typical of the small-scale battle scenes of Jan Martszen, in which no precise events can be discerned.A lone tree in the foreground serves as a repoussoir device, drawing attention to the trumpeter and mounted dragoons identifiable by their muskets on the left, who are charging to join a tangled skirmish between heavy cavalry in full armour and light horsmen in buff coats and slouch hats. At the right a heavy cavalryman in black armour thrusts down at a light horseman tumbling from his saddle.

Historical context note

Jan Martszen the Younger (ca. 1607-after 1647) lived mainly in Haarlem, and was also active in Amsterdam and Delft. He specialised in military skirmish scenes and provided designs for prints published in Amsterdam by Pieter Nolpe (1613/14-1652/3). He shared commissions with Pieter and Paulus Potter, Pieter Quast and Bartholomeus Breenbergh. He was probably the master of Jan Asselijn (ca.1615-52), who started as a battle painter.

Genre paintings of everyday life were especially popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century. In addition to scenes of everyday life in domestic interiors and the countryside, these included battle and guardroom scenes. The Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) ended Spanish control over the Netherlands. Battle scenes were popularized in the 1620s by Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630) and were continued by Philips Wouverman (1619-1668) after the cessation of the war.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Battle Scene', Jan Martszen the younger, 1630 or 1636

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 179, cat. no. 220.
Chrisptopher Wright, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century: Images of a Golden Age in British Collections, London, 1989, p. 216.

Labels and date

Battle Scene
1630 or 1636

Jan Martszen the Younger specialised in battle scenes that conjure up a sense of noise, violence, chaos and fear. The gnarled tree in the foreground draws attention to the light cavalry on the left heading into the fray, where it will meet the heavy cavalry officers in full armour (cuirassiers), who dominate the scene.

Dutch Republic, now the Netherlands (Haarlem)

By Jan Martszen the Younger

Oil on panel

Given by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, Bt

Family label for Europe 1600-1815:

Everyone in this painting is fighting, even the horses. Some of the soldiers wear almost no armour but fire guns, while the others wear heavy, old-fashioned armour and fight with swords. Better guns changed the way people fought wars, but horses remained important on the battlefield.

What sounds do you think you would hear on a battlefield like this? [09.12.2015]


Oil paint; Oak


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Battle; Landscape; Horseman




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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