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The Ommeganck in Brussels on 31 May 1615: The Senior Guilds

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Brussels, Belgium (painted)

  • Date:

    1615 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Alsloot, Denys van (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:

    168-1885

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Download image

Denys van Alsloot (before 1593-1626) was born in Brussels where he remained all his life. In 1599-1600, he entered the service of the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella who entrusted him with many important commissions. He belonged to the school of Brussels landscape artists like Jacques d'Arthois (1613-1686), Lucas Achtschellinck (1626-1699) and Lodewyk de Vadder (1605-1655).

This painting which is the left part of an original unique composition (see 169-1885 for the right part) was commissioned by the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella to celebrate the Ommeganck in Brussels in 1615. This was an important procession that honoured the most prestigious Guild in Brussels: the Crossbowmen guild.

Physical description

Left half of the depiction of the senior guilds procession in Brussels, displaying the guilds' banners; in the background are the typical narrow and high houses of Brussels with figures at the balconies.

Place of Origin

Brussels, Belgium (painted)

Date

1615 (painted)

Artist/maker

Alsloot, Denys van (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 112 cm estimate, Width: 184 cm estimate, Height: 1420 mm framed, Width: 2144 mm framed, Depth: 151 mm framed

Object history note

Commissioned by the Archduchess Isabella between May and September 1615, at her palace in Tervuren by 1619; collection bequeathed to Cardinal Infant, Don Ferdinand, Governor of the Netherlands; the Escorial; Lord Stafford (known at Stafford Castle as the 'Kenilworth Pageant); sold Christie's, 30 May 1885, lot 444; Purchased for the Museum (with 169-1885) for £262 10s.

Historical significance: Sometime before September 1615 Isabella commissioned eight paintings depicting the Ommeganck from Denis van Alsloot for 10,000 livres, only six of which actually seem to have been made. By 1619 these were displayed in the long gallery at the palace of Tervuren, one of the most ancient castles of the Dukes of Brabant, situated in a village north-east of Brussels. Formerly the location of an annual shooting competition between the cross-bow guilds of Brussels and Leuven, it was traditionally associated with St. Hubert of Liege, the patron saint of hunting, and also used for the entertaining of foreigh dignitaries. Stylistically, these paintings are unique in van Alsloot's oeuvre as he chiefly specialised in landscape paintings reminiscent of those painted at the turn of the century by Gillis van Coninxloo. These works are some of the best known depictions of Netherlandish civic spectacles.

Of Alsloot's six paintings of the Ommeganck, only four survive: two in the Prado, Madrid (Inv. P01347 and P01348) and two in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Inv.5928-1859 and 168/169). The last of these was divided in half at an unknown date. Fortunately, an undivided replica of it made around 1635 survives in the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (Inv. 171), together with a copy of one of the paintings in the Prado (Inv. P01347).

This painting (168-1885) is the left hand side the composition continued in V&A no.169-1885. For this reason, both halves of the composition are described together here. The scene is set facing the North side of the Grand' Place with in the centre the "Maison du Roi", in which several ducal tribunals and the Guilds of the Crossbowmen, the Swordsmen and of the Arquebus had their headquarters (see Sabine van Sprang, Le peintre et l'arpenteur…).

For the following account of the subject-matter of 168/169-1885 see C.M. Kauffmann (1973): The senior guilds, or Serments en armes are depicted, each accompanied by the image of its Patron Saint or Saints and by standard bearers, drums and fifes. Beginning at the right hand upper end of 169-1885, the procession is headed by the Escrimeurs, or Fencers, and in their midst are Saints Gudule - a devil is trying to blow out her lamp - and Michael, brandishing a sword and holding the devil by a chain. The Fencers are followed (on the left of 168-1885) by the Arquebusiers, or Musket-makers, led by an enormous St Christopher carrying the Christ-child and accompanied by a hermit with a lantern; in the second row ranks of musketeers, etc., a banner with the arms of Luis de Velasco, Marquis of Belveder and commander of light horse in Flanders, impaling the arms of Anne de Hennin, daughter of James, Marquis of Veere and Flushing. The next guild is that of the Archers (second row centre of 169-1885) headed by two attendants each carrying a bow and arrow; the captain is accompanied by a female dwarf heading three ranks of musketeers; in the centre of the row below two horses pulling a sledge with St Nicholas. In the same row (on the left of 168-1885) come the Lesser Guild of Crossbow-makers (Petit serment des Arbalétriers or Serment de St Georges), headed by St George - whose banner includes the arms of Brussels and of the Archduke Albert - and the captive dragon, followed, in the bottom register, by the captain with the usual ranks of musketeers, drummers and members carrying pikes.

Historical context note

Flemish painters of the 15th-17th centuries were internationally renowned for their painstaking naturalism and exact depiction of contemporary scenes. Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525/30-69) developed a new genre of large townscapes peopled with numerous small figures engaged in pastimes, processions and other activities, which was widely popular and much imitated by later artists. The great cities of Flanders were the setting for numerous civic festivities and processions, typically organised by guilds and other corporate organisations on major church holidays or to celebrate the ceremonial entries of rulers and other dignitaries. In Brussels, the capital of Brabant, power was divided between the patriciate and the so-called nations - nine civic bodies representing the 48 craft guilds. From 1576-85 Brussels was the capital of the newly formed United Provinces, in revolt against the Habsburg rulers of the Netherlands. In 1585 the city capitulated, was purged of Calvinists and its patriciate reinstated.

The Archduchess Isabella (1566-1633), the daughter of Philip II of Spain, married the Austrian Habsburg Archduke Albert, governor of the Netherlands, in 1597, and she continued to govern after his death in 1621. Denis van Alsloot (before 1573-1625/6) is recorded as a master in Brussels in 1599, and received commissions from Isabella and Albert from 1603. They developed their own propaganda to link the Habsburgs with concepts of peace and good government, and established a solid alliance with the Brussels patriciate.

The Ommeganck ('Procession') took place every year in Brussels under the patronage of the Church of Notre-Dame du Sablon and the guild of Crossbowmen. Margit Thofner (op. cit. 1999) notes that by 1615, there were two traditions of its origins:
1. That it was held to commemorate the translation of the miraculous image of the Virgin from Antwerp to this church in Brussels.
2. That it was held to commemorate the victory of Duke Jan I of Brabant at Woeringen in 1288.
It was thus regarded both as a celebration of collective, civic piety and as a civic victory parade commemorating the military prowess of the Dukes of Brabant.

At the Ommeganck held on 31 May 1615 the Archduchess Isabella was crowned Queen of the Cross-bow Guild after shooting a jay attached to the spire of the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Sablon. In that year the Ommeganck was celebrated with more than usual splendour, and may be interpreted as expressing the political alliance between the court and patriciate, and an ideal of unity under the patronage of the Archduchess Isabella.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Ommeganck in Brussels on 31 May 1615: the Senior Guilds', Denys van Alsloot, 1615

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

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 3-5, no 4.
The following is the full text of the entry:

Denis van ALSLOOT (active 1599; d. before 1628)
Flemish (Brussels) School
Alsloot was the head of the school of Brussels in the period of its decline in the early 17th century. Recorded as a master in 1599, he received commissions from the Archduke Albert and the Archduchess Isabella from 1603. The majority of his known paintings are landscapes in the manner of Gilles van Coninxloo, but he is also known to have executed cartoons for tapestries.

Lit. E. Larsen, 'Denis van Alsloot, peintre de la forêt de soignes' in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, xxxiv, 1948, pp. 331-54.

4
THE OMMEGANCK IN BRUSSELS ON 31 MAY 1615: THE SENIOR GUILDS
Originally one canvas, now divided in two:
168-1885 (left half): 44 1/8 x 72½ (112 x 184), i.e. cut down by 2 3/8 in. at lower edge. 169-1885 (right half): 46½ x 67 3/8 (118 x 171)
168/69-1885

This and no. 5 form two of the six canvases depicting the Ommeganck, or procession, held in honour of the Archduchess Isabella in Brussels on 31 May 1615. Isabella (1566-1633), the daughter of Philip II of Spain, married the Austrian Habsburg Archduke Albert, governor of the Netherlands, in 1597, and she continued to govern after his death in 1621.
The Ommeganck took place every year in Brussels under the patronage of the Church of Notre-Dame du Sablon and the guild of Crossbowmen, and its ostensible object was to commemorate the translation of the miraculous image of the Virgin from Antwerp to this church in Brussels. In 1615 Isabella was the Queen of the Fair and the Ommeganck was celebrated with more than usual splendour. Isabella commissioned eight paintings from Denis van Alsloot for 10,000 livres, of which two were probably the duplicates now in the Brussels Museum (copies of 1 and 2 below) and six made up the complete set depicting the procession:
1. Prado, Madrid, no. 1347: the opening of the procession, consisting of the Métiers, or Handicraft Guilds, of the city (repr. Puyvelde, 1958, pl. 2).
2. V. & A. Museum, 168/69-1885: the senior guilds, or Serments en armes, each of which is accompanied by the image of its Patron Saint or Saints and by standard bearers, drums and fifes. Beginning at the right hand upper end of 169-1885, the procession is headed by the Escrimeurs, or Fencers, and in their midst are Saints Gudula - a devil is trying to blowout her lamp - and Michael, holding the devil by a chain. The Fencers are followed (on the left of 168-1885) by the Arquebusiers, or Musket-makers, led by a hermit with a lantern preceding an enormous St Christopher carrying the Christ-child; in the second row ranks of musketeers, etc., a banner with the arms of Luis de Velasco, Marquis of Belveder and commander of light horse in Flanders, impaling the arms of Anne de Hennin, daughter of James, Marquis of Veere and Flushing. The next guild is that of the Archers (second row centre of 169-1885) headed by two attendants each carrying a bow and arrow; the captain is accompanied by a female dwarf heading three ranks of musketeers; in the centre of the row below two horses pulling a sledge with St Nicholas. In the same row (on the left of 168-1885) come the Lesser Guild of Crossbow-makers (Petit serment des Arbalétriers or Serment de St Georges), headed by St George - whose banner includes the arms of Brussels and of the Archduke Albert - and the captive dragon, followed, in the bottom register, by the captain with the usual ranks of musketeers, drummers and members carrying pikes. The setting is the Grande Place at Brussels, with the Maison du Roi in the centre.
3. (Lost) perhaps contained the historic cavalcade of the Dukes of Brabant, according to the conjecture of Fr. Baesten (1889-90), based on the evidence of earlier Ommeganck processions.
4. (Lost) perhaps contained a series of cars representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the Life of the Virgin.
5. V. & A. Museum, 5928-1858 (no. 5): the Triumph of the Archduchess Isabella.
6. Prado, Madrid, no. 1348: the city fathers and magistrates followed by the religious orders and the clergy escorting the miraculous image of Nôtre-Dame du Sablon (repr. Puyvelde, 1958, pl. iii).

Prov. Archduchess Isabella; collection bequeathed to Cardinal Infant, Don Ferdinand, Governor of the Netherlands; the Escorial; Lord Stafford (known at Stafford Castle as the 'Kenilworth Pageant); sold Christie's, 30 May 1885, lot 444; bought for the Museum for £262 10S.
Exh. Exposition universelle de Bruxelles, 1935: Cinq siècles d' art, i, peintures, nos. 206,207-8; Flemish art, 1300-1700, R. A., 1953-54, nos. 213, 430-31; Flandres, Espagne, Portugal, du xve au xviie siècle, Bordeaux, 1954, nos. 1-3; Renaissance des Rederijkers, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, 1956.
Lit. P. Baesten, 'L'Ommeganck de Bruxelles en 1615 d'après les tableaux de Denis van Alsloot' in Précis Historiques, 38-9, 1889-90, passim, esp, pp. 337-61, 533-53; A.-J. Wauters, Denis van Alsloot, Bruxelles 1809, p. 18 ff.; J. Laver, Isabella's Triumph (Faber Gallery), 1947; Larsen, op. cit., p. 348 ff., fig. 12; L. van Puyvelde, 'De Ommergang te Brussel in 1615 .. .' in Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Taal-en Letterkunde, Verslagen en Mededelingen, Ghent, 1958, pp. 117-29.
P. Baesten, 'L'Ommeganck de Bruxelles en 1615 d'après les tableaux de Denis van Alsloot' in Précis Historiques, 38-9, 1889-90, passim, esp, pp. 337-61, 533-53.
A.-J. Wauters, Denis van Alsloot, Bruxelles 1809, p. 18 ff.
J. Laver, Isabella's Triumph (Faber Gallery), 1947.
E. Larsen, 'Denis van Alsloot, peintre de la forêt de soignes' in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, xxxiv, 1948, pp. 348 ff, fig. 12.
L. van Puyvelde., 'De Ommergang te Brussel in 1615 .. .' in Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Taal-en Letterkunde, Verslagen en Mededelingen, Ghent, 1958, pp. 117-29.
Luc Duerloo and Werner Thomas, Albert & Isabelle, 1598-1621, exh. cat. Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Katholik Universiteit Leuven, Leuven: 1998, p. 204, fig. 284.
Margit Thofner, 'The Court in the City, the City in the Court. Denis van Alsloot's depictions of the 1615 Brussels "ommegang", Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol. 49 (1998), pp.184-207.
Le peintre et l'arpenteur : Images de Bruxelles et de l'ancien duché de Brabant exh. cat., Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles: 2000, p. 252.
Johan Verbeckmoes, 'Parading hilarious exotics in the Spanish Netherlands, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol. 53 (2002), pp.52-69.

Exhibition History

Spectacle of Power. Rituals in Old Europe 800-1800 (Kulturhistorisches Museum, Magdeburg 21/09/2008-04/01/2009)
Van Alsloot (Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels 17/09/1998-17/01/1999)
Renaissance des Rederijkers (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem 01/01/1956-31/12/1956)
Flemish Art 1300-1700 (Royal Academy of Arts 01/01/1953-31/12/1954)
Cinq siècles d' art, i, peintures (Exposition universelle de Bruxelles 01/01/1935-31/12/1935)
Flandres, Espagne, Portugal du Xve au XVIIe siècles (Musee de'Aquitaine, Bordeaux 01/05/1954-31/07/1954)

Materials

Canvas; Oil paint

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Banner; Processions; Brussels; Guilds

Categories

Paintings

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O132428
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