This majestic marble bust represents a mature man, seen from the front with his head slightly turned to the right. The man wears a ruff around his neck, a suit of armor and a large fur collar that goes down to the bottom of the bust. The face is serious and solemn. The man wears a small slightly raised mustache, a goatee and wears on the top of the skull a small bonnet. The various elements of this bust lead us to believe that it is the representation of an important man of noble origin, with a long military career and particularly pious. After studying several portraits we can advance the name of Willem of Orange.
Willem van Oranje (William in English and Guillaume de Nassau d’Orange in French) was a noble with many talents: first loyal servant of the Spanish crown, he rebelled against it to become a «father of the nation», one of the founders of the new Dutch state, which he had never contemplated being created.
Born in 1533 in the castle of Dillenburg in Germany of Lutheran parents, Willem inherited in 1544 the principality of Orange. But to validate this inheritance Charles V (King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire since 1519) requires that the young prince be educated in the Catholic faith at the royal court of Brussels. It is in this environment that young Willem learns French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch (which he will never speak fluently), rhetoric and diplomacy. He quickly became one of the most influential nobles in the Netherlands, and from 1555 he obtained important positions: he was commander in chief of the armies, members of the Council of State, knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and stathouder of Holland, Zealand, and Utrecht. But his relationship with Philip II, successor of Charles V on the Spanish throne, deteriorated rapidly. Becoming spokesman of the nobiliary opposition, the Prince of Orange pleads for moderation in the struggle against Protestant heresy, a freedom of worship for the subjects of the Seventeen Provinces; he opposes the new officials of the administration who acquired positions to the detriment of the nobles and opposes the new tax imposed by Spain who wants to take advantage of the rich Dutch trade to finance incessant wars.
In 1566 a new governor was sent from Spain: the duke of Albe. With the killing of the Counts of Egmont and Hornes (Catholics and Knights of the Golden Fleece having openly criticized royal politics); the Spanish repression intensified. Identified as another leader of the «beggar» rebellion, Willem of Orange had to flee to Germany where he converted to Calvinism and gathered an army. From 1568, he launched several military campaigns in the Netherlands to put an end to the power of the Duke of Albe and establish a «local» government. This political and religious struggle is also conducted through prints, pamphlets and songs, including the Wilhelmus (current Dutch national anthem) which was born during this struggle and is inspired by the life of William.
Even today historians agree that it is thanks to the perseverance, and the tenacity of Willem of Orange that the rebels held out in Holland and Zealand. In 1576, peace was even established with the provinces remaining faithful to the Spanish crown with the Peace of Ghent. The ideal of Willem is close: the restoration and unification of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands governed by the local nobility, religious tolerance, and freedom of worship. But this new peace did not last long.
In 1580, a rarity in European diplomacy, Philip II issued an edict against Willem, accusing him of treason, ingratitude, heresy, declaring him «enemy of the human race» and putting a price on his head. The Prince of Orange responded by publishing his Apology: a document in which he rejected the king’s accusations, justified his political and personal choices and defended his right to rebel against Spanish tyranny and absolutism. He presented his work in 1581 before the assembly of the States General of the Netherlands in Delft and it was translated and then distributed in European courts. Revolted by the condemnation of the stathouder, the States General draw up the Hague Act. These two writings have a major place in the history of the Netherlands: they legitimize the revolt and proclaim the fall of the king of Spain, who became unworthy to govern and rule the Seventeen Provinces.
After escaping several assassination attempts, Willem of Orange was shot on July 10, 1584 by Balthazar Gérard, a Catholic posing as a French Huguenot. Saddened and disappointed until his end not to have liberated all the Dutch provinces from the Spanish domination (including present-day Belgium), Willem remains a central figure of this rebellion. Less than 25 years after his death, the rebellious provinces are transformed into a republic, already conscious and grateful to this hero, founder of the nation.
The prince wanted to be buried in Breda with his first wife and his ancestors, but the city was still occupied by the Spaniards, so Willem was buried in Delft in a simple and sober tomb. It was not until 1614, during the Twelve Years Truce, that a real funeral monument was built by the famous Dutch sculptor and architect Hendrick de Keyser. Composed of a marble recumbent of Willem of Orange and a bronze statue of the prince as the chief of the army; this majestic tomb becomes from then on, the reference in the sculptural representation of the Silent. Municipalities, nobles, and members of the Royal Family of Holland have regularly paid tribute to this national hero, through commissions of sculptures, often inspired by his tomb. We can cite as an example Willem III who, in 1683, ordered a series of 6 marble busts representing his ancestors including the Prince of Orange. The latter is now in the Royal Collections and visible at the Soestdijk Palace.
An idealized representation of a hero of the nation, this bust exudes an aura of nobility. The state of conservation allows us to admire the fineness of the marble and the details of this sculpted portrait, most certainly commissioned to pay tribute to the Prince of Orange.
Delevery information :
Please note that packing and shipping costs are not included in the price of the objects which are quoted ex shop.
Final amount including packing and shipment to be discussed with Galerie Alexandre Piatti.
7 500 €