The beauty of the day: “Amsterdam Civil Guard Banquet …”, by Bartholomeus van der Helst

“Banquet of the Civil Guard of Amsterdam celebrating the Peace of Münster” (1648) by Bartholomeus van der Helst


It lasted almost a century, eight long decades: from May 23, 1568 to January 30, 1648: 79 years, 8 months and 7 days. Historians called it the Eighty Years War. On the one hand, Spain (there it is known as the Flanders War); on the other, the Netherlands (they call it the War of Independence). In that dispute, the territory known as Seventeen Provinces faced its sovereign, the then Philip II from Spain. It was a true rebellion.

It is a complex period because the countries that are known today as Belgium and Luxembourg were part of the Seventeen Provinces, but they remained loyal to the Crown forming the Spanish Netherlands. In 1581, the seven northern provinces of that area (Friesland, Groningen, Gelderland, Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, and Zealand) were renamed the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Until in 1648 it was ended with the Peace Treaty of Münster.

The treaty was part of a larger European agreement known as the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years ‘War and the Eighty Years’ War. The United Provinces of the Netherlands became independent from Spain and became simply the Netherlands. Perhaps the iconic painting of that time is that of Bartholomeus van der Helst, painted that precise year, titled Amsterdam Civil Guard Banquet celebrating the Peace of Münster.


The hostility lived on in that work of great proportions – 232 centimeters high and 547 wide – that today is housed in the National Museum of Amsterdam, better known as the Rijksmuseum. It was almost four centuries later, on June 25, 2006, that a man approached the painting, looked at it, looked at it, looked at it and suddenly threw gasoline on it and then took out a lighter to set it on fire. Security personnel prevented its destruction.

Hans-Joachim Bohlmann this man was called; he was German. As a boy he had been admitted to a psychiatric center for personality disorders. He was forty when he began attacking construction sites. Started with The gold fish from Paul Klee. Between 1977 and 1988 he damaged more than fifty works: Lübeck, Hanover, Dusseldorf, Lüneburg, Essen, Bochum, Kassel. Also broke three Rembrandt and doused with sulfuric acid three Durero.

“He has feelings of hatred and revenge against society,” the court assumed and locked him up in a clinic. In 1998 he escaped but was caught two days later. In 2001 he fled again but returned voluntarily two days later. In 2005 he was released without finding a cure. The museums, which had forbidden him entry, had not forgotten him. Until on June 25, 2006 he camouflaged himself and managed to enter the Rijksmuseum, he stood in front of the beautiful work of Bartholomeus van der Helst and…


Bartholomeus van der Helst He was born in 1613 in Haarlem, the son of an innkeeper. It is not known from whom he learned to paint, but after taking portraits in his city he decided to travel to Amsterdam. He was a contemporary of Rembrandt and possibly more famous as some disciples (such as Ferdinand Bol and Govaert Flinck) Today considered one of the great painters in history, they adopted the style of van der Helst instead of that of their master.

After winning a certain prestige, he was commissioned to Amsterdam Civil Guard Banquet … He was very successful, so much so that he left a mark on the history of painting in his country. Each portrait in this large group painting has the technical strength of becoming a portrait of its own. The protagonists who hold hands are the captain Cornelis Jan Witsen and the lieutenant Johan Oetgens van Waveren. Behind the captain are the sergeants Thomas Hartog and Dirck Claes Thoveling.

In the center, in front of the table, is the ensign Jacob Banningh with the banner of the Virgin of Amsterdam on his shoulder. Next to it is a drum with a leaf attached to it. Zooming in, or looking at the painting at the Rijksmuseum up close, it reads. It’s a poem. It was written by the Dutch scholar Jan Vos who puts into words the feelings of ending the Eighty Years’ War and making the Netherlands independent from Spain: “In the eternal pact, / the audience of peace”.


A look at the “Indian problem” in river painting
Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed by coronavirus
Click here for all published beauties

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *