"The Surrender of Breda," a midcareer masterpiece by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), depicts a rare, graceful moment of Spanish triumph during the Eighty"The Surrender of Breda," a midcareer masterpiece by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), depicts a rare, graceful moment of Spanish triumph during the Eighty Years' War, which pitted imperial Spain against the fledgling Dutch Republic. After capturing the city of Breda in 1625, the commander of the Spanish forces, Ambrogio Spinola, declined to humiliate the Dutch under Justin of Nassau, saying he considered it "a point of wisdom to be merciful rather than severe." Velázquez shows Spinola placing a consoling hand on Justin's shoulder as the Dutchman turns over the key to the city—two military men meeting in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Spinola's behavior at Breda was not altogether characteristic of Spain's conduct during the war, which tended to be quite brutal, particularly toward Dutch Protestants, who faced torture and execution. Thus some have seen Velázquez's "Breda" as little more than brilliant propaganda, portraying a fleeting instance of Spanish munificence. But others have perceived a poignant piece of wish-fulfillment, evidence of Spain's desire for an honorable outcome to a largely futile war. As it turned out, Breda reverted to Dutch control just two years after Velázquez completed his picture, and the Spanish crown relinquished its territorial claims to the Dutch Republic in 1648, a testament to Spain's decline as a great power.
In "Velázquez and the Surrender of Breda," Anthony Bailey chronicles Velázquez's life and career in the light of Spain's political and social history, using the siege of Breda as the fulcrum of the story. Central to his narrative is the question...
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In her appearances on BBC television, historian Lucy Worsley has shown herself to be an engaging, sometimes unconventional, guide to the habits and cuIn her appearances on BBC television, historian Lucy Worsley has shown herself to be an engaging, sometimes unconventional, guide to the habits and customs of bygone Britons. The chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces once demonstrated Henry VIII’s caloric intake by purchasing the ingredients for a Tudor feast — ale, meat, a few vegetables — and then cheerfully analyzing the results in terms of today’s money and diets.
Worsley’s winsome approach to history finds apt subject matter in "The Courtiers," a richly informative and entertaining account of palace life under George I and George II, who reigned, respectively, from 1714 to 1727 and from 1727 to 1760.
Most Americans are familiar with King George III, who received the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and later went famously mad, but the first two Georges tend to be less remembered here, even though...
No vault, however secure, is impregnable. No criminal scheme, however cunning, is foolproof.
Well-constructed heist stories exploit the tension betweenNo vault, however secure, is impregnable. No criminal scheme, however cunning, is foolproof.
Well-constructed heist stories exploit the tension between these simple truths to produce a grand clash of vigilance and nerve, pitting a fortune’s defenders against its would-be usurpers. Such forces animated Steven Soderbergh’s glittering 2001 Rat Pack homage "Ocean’s Eleven." And the formula is deployed with equal skill - and somewhat greater plausibility - in the new true-crime chronicle "Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History," about a nighttime robbery at the Antwerp Diamond Center that netted thieves more than $100 million worth of precious stones during...
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