Assault and capture of the entrenched battlefield of Hulst

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Assault and capture of the entrenched battlefield of Hulst
This is the sixth tapestry of the series dedicated to the triumphs of Archduke Albert in Calais, Ardres and Hulst in 1596. Within the series, it is the second of three tapestries devoted to the conquest of the stronghold of Hulst, in the province of Zeeland. The first of the three pieces is displayed in the Royal Palace of Madrid, while the second and third adorn the Office of Francisco Franco in the Royal Palace of El Pardo.

Archduke Albert and the Count of Salazar

In the foreground we see Don Luis de Velasco, the Count of Salazar, explaining the plan of attack to Archduke Albert. In this particular tapestry, the Archduke is not depicted dressed in cardinal’s attire.


The attack

After the battle in the trenches of Hulst (depicted in the fifth tapestry of the series), and after the waters of the estuary of the River Scheldt had fallen with the low tide, Archduke Albert’s troops began their assault on the stronghold. The tapestry shows how the artillery with their cannons, footsoldiers and naval forces besieged Hulst, accompanied by the music of drums. Under the direction of Count Everard Solms, Hulst resisted almost one month in the summer of 1596.


Hulst

In the background the stronghold of Hulst is depicted with considerable accuracy. The walled city received its name because it is shaped like a holly tree, and was one of the strongest and most advanced towns of its time; it has passed into history not only because of Archduke Albert’s attack, but also for the attack on it in 1645, when it returned under Dutch control.


The border

The four corners of the border contain depictions of Medusa as in the other tapestries in the series. Elsewhere in the border, the same motifs related to military victories are repeated: weapons, armour, palm branches of victory and laurel wreaths. Three emblems are also included, which vary between each piece in the series, and a banner with a weaved Latin inscription telling us about the scene being depicted.


Legends

The tapestry has a banner and emblems in the border, as in the rest of the series. In the upper banner, an inscription describes the scene to us: HVLSTANVS AGER ADITV INACCESSVS FIRMISSIMIS / CIRCVMMVNITVS PROPVGNACVLIS [The region of Hulst, surrounded by a strong bastion and difficult to access, is captured after the estuary is crossed].

The emblem in the inner border alludes to the victory over this fortified city, surrounded by the river estuary, where troops battled for both water and land. For this reason, three intertwined crowns are depicted: first, the rostral crown, which has bay leaves and boats’ bows and sterns. In Ancient Rome, this crown was awarded when a boat was captured, or following a naval victory. Second, we see the mural crown, which was awarded in Ancient Rome to the soldier who first scaled the walls of a city and placed his troops’ standard on the tower of the conquered city. Third, we see the laurel wreath, a symbol of victory. The emblem’s inscription says HIS ORNARI AVT MORI [Be honoured with these, or die].

The emblem in the left-hand side border shows us the goddess Fortuna guiding a boat filled with soldiers, whose standard bears the arms of the Habsburg Dynasty. The inscription reads NIL INVIUM [Nothing is beyond reach].

We see the goddess Fortune once more in the emblem in the right-hand side border, but this time with a lance in one hand and a rudder in the other, her foot resting on a helmet. The inscription reads SVPERANDO QVOD OBSTAT [Overcoming obstacles].


Series Triumphs and battles of Archduke Albert

Sixth tapestry in the series

Model Otto van Veen and Hans I Snellinck

Manufacture Martin Reynbouts, Brussels, 1597-1599

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Size 349 x 394 cm

Location Royal Palace of El Pardo

Origin Collection of Philip IV

On display Office of Francisco Franco

National Heritage Inv. n. 10072267



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