Breda is a fortified city, at the junction of the rivers Mark and Aa, in the southern part of the Netherlands. To defend itself, a wall was built around the city at the beginning of the 14th century. Wooden watchtowers were located at strategic points and canals were dug all around the city. These canals still exist. In the 17th century Breda, was a city of strategic significance defended by a large garrison.
La rendición de Breda
The surrender of Breda in 1625, by the forces of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, after a ten months siege, to the Spaniards under Don Ambrogio Spinola is the subject of the painting El Cuadro de las Lanzas by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660). Velázquez relied on a print by Callot for the topography of the battlefield. He had previously travelled with Spinola to Italy in 1629, a fateful encounter that helped determined the subject matter of the painting. In 1888 Carl Justi noticed a compositional similarity between the work and Ruben's "Meeting of Ferdinand of Hungary and the Cardinal-Infante of Spain" in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
In 1637 Breda was recaptured by Frederick Henry of Orange after a four months siege, and in 1648 it was finally ceded to the Dutch Republic by the Treaty of Westphalia.
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) in his novel "The Guermantes Way" Le Côté de Guermantes, refers to gentlemanly conduct on the battlefield when he describes how:
'As, in Velázquez's Surrender of Breda', he went on, 'the victor advances towards him who is the humbler in rank, and as is the duty of every noble nature, since I was everything and you were nothing, it was I who took the first steps towards you'.
'Comme dans les Lances de Velasquez', continua-t-il, 'le vainqueur s'avance vers celui qui est le plus humble, comme le doit tout etre noble, puisque j'etais tout et que vous n'etiez rien, c'est moi qui ai fait les premiers pas vers vous'.