Gerard Ter Borch at Münster

Elka Schrijver describes how the peace of Westphalia in 1648 marked the close of the Thirty Years’ War and the dawn of a new era for Europe.

What is known as ‘The Treaty of Westphalia’ in Britain and ‘The Peace of Münster’ in The Netherlands, really a series of treaties signed in 1648, was the first international attempt to bring lasting peace to the whole of Europe.

As a matter of fact, the only European powers not represented there were England, Poland, Muscovy and Turkey. To the best of my knowledge, it is also the first time that such an event was fairly accurately depicted by a distinguished artist who was present because he had been commissioned to paint this historical scene.

Ter Borch was paid six thousand florins for this comparatively small painting, which is all the more interesting since Rembrandt was paid sixteen hundred florins for his Nightwatch.

Prior to 1672, the painting was the property of Burgomaster Ter Borch of Deventer; having changed hands several times, it was purchased by Sir Richard Wallace in 1870 and given to the National Gallery in 1871.

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