Painting as a historical source. “Guardhouses” of Palamedes

“Sentry with dogs”. In the center is an officer in a tunic (a caftan made of thin leather), which was worn under a cuirass, but it is very difficult to say who all the others are. That is, maybe they are soldiers, but they look more like tramps warming themselves by the fire. The rabble is rabble, and such are present in all the artist’s paintings with “guard rooms”. In the background, one character changes his shoes. In the paintings of Anthony Palamedes, this storyline is repeated with enviable constancy. From the weapon we see only a heavy cavalry sword on the floor to the right.

This is all so familiar, and it seems: in a fairy tale I am,

And I am ready to exclaim obsessively: vade!
I met you, Rembrandt Saskia?
Have I returned to your age, Adrian van Ostade?
Valery Bryusov

Pictures tell. To begin with, the material “Pictures Tell. The readers of VO liked the “Guardhouse”, well, except for a few, which is basically normal, I also hate cabbage pies, although I eat Polish bigos, for example, with great pleasure. And many wanted the theme of painting as a historical source to be continued. At the same time, many absolutely accurately pointed out in their comments that the epic nature of a canvas or sculpture, for example, and its historical reliability are things that are often completely different. For example, Motherland on Mamayev Kurgan or Alyosha in Treptow Park in Berlin are epic works, but it would be strange and ridiculous to reason on their basis that in a critical situation Soviet soldiers and their mothers took up swords! Therefore, let’s not confuse the gift of God with scrambled eggs, but turn to the paintings of the same Dutchmen who, on their canvases, reflected many battles of the Thirty Years and Eighty Years War with the participation of many soldiers in a variety of armor, and here they are, without a doubt, are for us an important source of information about that time.

Last time, we carefully examined essentially just one painting by Teniers the Younger, “Guardian”, which, however, gave us very valuable information about that time. But maybe, before turning directly to the battle canvases, let’s look at other paintings written at the same time and on the same topic, but by different painters? It turns out there is!

Here we must remember one good our saying that “bad examples are contagious.” That is, if some “theme” of someone “went”, then imitators immediately appear, or the author himself begins to replicate popular stories one after another.

One such “Dutchman” was Anthony Palamedes (1601-1673), a Dutch Golden Age artist who worked in a wide variety of areas of painting. Anthony was a genre painter, portrait and still life painter, but is best known for his paintings depicting musical or gay companies and soldiers of the time. Such works testify to his knowledge of contemporary genre paintings by artists from Harlem and Amsterdam such as Dirk Hals, Peter Codde, Willem Duister and Hendrik Pot. He was born in the city of Delft, where he eventually became a representative of the famous Delft school.

Palamedes was born into the family of a semi-precious stone carver. He worked with jasper, porphyry and agate, and became a renowned master stonecutter. And so famous that he traveled to England to the court of King James of Scotland. But then his younger brother was born, who was also named Palamedes, and the family had to return to Delft, where the brothers grew up.

Painting, according to some sources, Anthony Palamedes studied with Michel van Mirevelt. Others call him the Amsterdam painter Hendrik Pot as his mentor. His younger brother Palamedes also became an artist. However, Anthony happened to outlive his brother, who died at only 31 years old in 1638. In 1621 Palamedes was admitted to the Guild of Artists of St. Luke, and then he was elected dean four times (in 1635, 1658, 1663 and 1672).

On March 30, 1630, Anthony married Anna van Hoorendijk, who within ten years, from 1632 to 1642, bore him six children: another Palamedes (1632), Leenbert (1634), Joost (1636), William (1638) and twins – William and Mary. But all the children, except for the son of Palamedes, died either before or in 1646. The son of Anthony Palamedes, Palamedes Palamedes, inherited his father’s profession and also became a painter.

The sale of the paintings brought Palamedes a steady income. For example, he bought a house for 3400 guilders. But then fortune turned him away. His wife Anna died in 1651 and Palamedes in 1658 remarried. But … alas, unsuccessfully, in much the same way as the woodcutter in the 1938 movie “Cinderella”. At home, troubles began, and with them – debts and monetary difficulties. And it all ended with the fact that Palamedes left everything, left in 1670 for Amsterdam, and died there in 1673.

And so one of his topics just became … yes, do not be surprised – the topic of the “guardhouse”. It is difficult to say how many canvases he painted “Guardian” in total, but we can definitely say that there are many of them. By the way, this is truly a godsend for swindlers who know how to forge 17th century canvases. Although, on the other hand, the discovery of a previously unknown painting by Anthony Palamedes will cause such a stir that … the “found” picture will be checked and checked, poisoned with acids, looked at with microscopes, and in the end it will come to the “atomic cannon”. It’s just that when a lot of paintings on one topic by one artist are written, there is always a chance to find some accidentally forgotten and unknown.

Interestingly, Palamedes’ guards are similar in many ways. They have a central figure, who is almost always dressed in the costume of a heavy cavalry rider, who, however, took off his armor, and is engaged in giving instructions to his comrades, playing the trumpet or just standing in thought. In contrast to Teniers’ paintings, his canvases contain women, including breastfeeding babies and, apparently, wandering around to the soldiers in “seeking adventure” or “help”, and even dogs. That is, in the guardrooms of that time, what and who just did not happen!

Well, now let’s admire his canvases and see what exactly they can give for the study of military affairs of the 17th century, and in the period 1640-1650. because it is this time that his “sentries” are dated.


“Guardhouse” in 1647. (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) Here the same officer, in a smart hat with multi-colored feathers, gives some indication to a private, who has just taken off his cuirass. Only one plate gorget remained on the officer’s armor. In his left hand – a protazan, therefore, this officer is from the infantry. Other soldiers in the background are hanging their armor on the wall. And these are clearly infantrymen, since one of them is holding a bandelier


“Gathering the detachment” in 1654. (State Museum of Fine Arts named after A.S. Pushkin, Moscow) The same officer in a yellow tunic, but now with a banner in his hand, makes the same gesture as in many other paintings


“Scene in the Guardhouse” And what do we see here? “A trumpeter in a yellow jacket”, a Negro servant (that is, they were already imported into Europe then, and, judging by their posture, they did not feel humiliated here at all!), A violinist, dice players, and a dog gnawing a bone – all very vital and touching in its own way. Armor (double cuirass), hanging on the back wall. (Private collection)


Another painting from 1654 and on it is the same guardhouse with a trumpeter in a yellow jacket (tunic) (Royal Baths, Warsaw)


Here the officer stood up and blows the bugle, and the woman with the child and all the other characters are watching him. The task of the trumpeter in the Dutch army was to notify all the soldiers in the guardroom that there was an order from the commander to get ready and leave.


The flag on the horn is red, and the camisole is already blue, obviously made of cloth, not leather. But you still can’t do without a woman with a baby …


“In the guardroom.” (Private collection) Here an officer in a cuirass is clearly tired and is waiting for a servant to serve him. From weapons – armor in the right corner. Behind him stands the musketeer


Another painting with a guardhouse from 1654 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London). Here the bugler took off his hat …


In the center of this canvas, which is called “Sentry Company of Pikemen,” there is an officer with a protazan, next to whom is a second officer with a cane. The woman and the child are present. True, there is no drum that is found in many of his paintings. But on the left against the wall there is a beautifully depicted musket with a stand. True, it is not very possible to make out what kind of lock he has – wheel or wick

And this is not all of the “Caral Rooms” that this Dutch artist wrote. But we now know for sure how the soldiers and junior officers of 1654 were dressed, what cuirasses, muskets they wore, and what women with babies came to the “guardhouses” then.

To be continued…

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