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Hendrik, Graaf van den Bergh (1573-1638): van Spanje naar Oranje

Hendrik, Count van den Bergh (1573-1638): from Spanish to Dutch Exhibition: 17 April 2010 - 1 March 2011

Information from the website, 14 June 2010

Huis Bergh has recently bought a life-sized portrait of Count Hendrik van den Bergh (1573-1638) from an American collector. A controversial count who played a major role in the Eighty Years’ War, Hendrik van den Bergh held the highest rank imaginable in the Spanish army, only to defect to join the Dutch. The portrait is painted by Otto van Veen (ca.1556-1629), one of the most prestigious portrait artists of his time. Born in Leiden, Van Veen moved to Antwerp in 1594 where Rubens was to become his student and assistant. In 1614, he moved to the court capital of Brussels where he worked right up until his death. This is where this official portrait is thought to have been painted.

Count Hendrik van den Bergh was the eighth and youngest son of Willem IV van den Bergh and Maria van Nassau, William of Orange’s sister. Like his father and his two brothers, Hendrik van den Bergh joined the Spanish military: he was 15 years old. Throughout his impressive, forty-year career serving the King of Spain, Hendrik worked his way up the ranks to become commander-in-chief of the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Count Hendrik was admired by his peers for his military capabilities.

After his defeat at the siege of Den Bosch in 1629, he chose to collaborate in secret with his cousin, Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange. In 1632, he finally decided to defect to the other side, joining the Dutch. The Spaniards were not happy about his decision and sentenced him to death; a sentence that was never carried out. Hendrik died on 12th May 1638 in Zutphen. At his own request, his body was laid to rest in the ancestral vault in the church in ’s-Heerenberg. The acquisition of this magnificent life-sized portrait feels like the final return of Count Hendrik to his family’s ancestral castle.

As of 17 April 2010, the portrait will be on show as part of an exhibition about Hendrik van den Bergh and the Eighty Years’ War. The exhibition will highlight Hendrik’s campaigns and military achievements as commander of the Spanish army as well as his desertion to join Frederik Hendrik in 1632. The exhibition will also include portraits and documents that take a more personal look into Count Hendrik’s life as well as relationships that existed between the Bergh and the Orange families. The majority of the exhibits in the exhibition come from Huis Bergh’s extensive archives and abundant art collection.