CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Battle at Schiphol

Exhibition: 2 October 2007 - 14 January 2008

Hendrick Vroom, Battle of the Haarlemmermeer in 1571, ca. 1621. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Hendrick Vroom (ca. 1566-1640), Battle of the Haarlemmermeer in 1571, ca. 1621
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Museum press release, 19 September 2007

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol, the Rijksmuseum – in collaboration with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – is presenting a special exhibition entitled Battle at Schiphol. Almost 450 years ago, a key naval battle was played out on the present-day site of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. This encounter was part of the Dutch struggle for independence from Spanish rule during the Eighty Years’ War. The exhibition will commemorate this important historical event by presenting eight paintings, prints and other items from the collections of the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal Leiden. The exhibition can be viewed from 2 October to 16 December at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (in the area beyond passport control).

In 1573, a battle was fought for control of the city of Haarlem. The following two years marked a turning point in the struggle against Spanish oppression. On 8 October 1573, the Spanish siege of Alkmaar failed and, on 3 October 1574, Leiden was liberated from the Spanish besiegers. These historical events are widely commemorated and celebrated to this day.

In cities such as Haarlem, Alkmaar and Leiden, it wasn’t long before people began looking back with great pride on their part in the struggle and the sacrifices made. Artists were commissioned to produce important commemorative pieces. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the painting Battle of Haarlemmermeer, which the burgomasters of Haarlem commissioned Hendrick Vroom to make 50 years after the event. This imposing canvas has been completely restored, specially for the exhibition, thanks to a generous contribution from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Now that the details have been revealed once more, the painting clearly depicts how a Haarlem city gate was blown up, sending the Spanish aggressors flying into the air like little pale creatures from a nightmare, and how the Haarlemmerhout forest, where a Spanish army camp was based, was obliterated.

Together with other items, including a canon used in the battle that was discovered when the Haarlemmermeer lake was drained in the 19th century, the painting tells the story of the war in the area around Haarlem. In addition to the painting by Vroom, there are two other items of major importance on show which hark back to the Eighty Years’ War: a painting of the battle of the Zuiderzee (from 1573) and a tapestry telling the story of the relief of Leiden (from 1574).