Anon., Flemish school
The Battle of Cassel, 1677

Late 17th century
Oil on canvas
112.4 x 178.4 cm

Inv. 996.2.1

Major works | Indignant Subjects

Louis XIV and Flanders

1677: just as the Franco-Dutch War was coming to an end, the unexpected happened. The army troops of William III of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces, who were getting ready to conquer Saint-Omer, were stopped in their tracks by the French garrisons stationed on the strategic site of the Cassel plain. Louis XIV had his hands full capturing the town of Cambrai, and so he entrusted command of this operation to his brother, the Duke of Orléans, who can be seen on horseback in the foreground.

Different stages of the battle are illustrated in this painting: the arrival and encampment of the Dutch army in the top-right on 6th April, the fire at Noordpeene Abbey on the evening of Saturday 10th April, the Dutch army’s attempt to cross the River Peene the next morning, and the Dutch fleeing the scene on 11th April. In the foreground, on the right, the figures seen perched in a tree (the destitution of whom symbolises the ravages caused by the war) can barely contain their delight; victory is theirs. The battleground fills the middle of the composition. Cassel can be seen in the distance, where a few buildings like the castle or town hall can just be made out. Fitting several anachronical events into the same space, this composition gives a sweeping overview of the battle and highlights the strategic qualities of the French camp.

 

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