Historians, publishers, and printmakers did not wait for the end of the Eighty Years’ War in 1648 to start manufacturing printed histories of the conflict. Already in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, the war, also known as the Dutch Revolt, became the topic of extensively illustrated history books. During the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-1621) especially, books packed with prints flew off the presses in the Dutch Republic. This first cluster of Dutch illustrated histories examined in this article included the works of Pieter Christiaenz. Bor, Willem Baudartius, and Johannes Gysius, which provided the backbone of an emerging ‘national’ history of the Dutch Republic. Central to these publications were the reworked etchings of the sixteenth-century printmaker Frans Hogenberg (1535-1590), whose workshop in Cologne had covered much of the first half of the Eighty Years’ War through the continuous production of news prints.

By the 1640s, however, books on the Revolt rarely appeared with illustrations – a change in line with a more general slump in the Dutch printing industry.2 The first edition of P.C. Hooft’s Nederlandsche Historien, published in 1642 (Elzevier, Amsterdam), included no images beyond the frontispiece, while the 1654/1656 edition included only a handful of portraits. Similarly, Hugo Grotius’ history on the Revolt, first published in Latin in 1657 (Blaeu, Amsterdam), included only a frontispiece and an author portrait. Even with such sober designs, an author like Hooft believed that the modest first edition of his work had one illustration too many. In a letter to Gaspar van Vosberghen, Hooft confided that he saw no need even for a frontispiece, which he derogatorily characterised as a ‘kermiswerk’3: a work that looked impressive but lacked actual substance. The initiative for the illustrated title page came entirely from the publisher, who had assured Hooft that ‘vain people’ would more easily part with their money if they could gaze at a pretty title page.4

The lack of illustrations would provide future publishers with a new opportunity: to republish old texts with new images. A few decades after the end of the Eighty Years’ War, from the 1670s onwards, Dutch reissues of histories on the Revolt were illustrated with newly commissioned and high-quality prints, a formula that extended to profane and religious history works in general.5 This new production makes up the second cluster of illustrated histories studied in this article. It was initiated largely by a collective of Amsterdam publishers that consisted of Hendrick and Dirck Boom, Abraham Wolfgangh, and Hester de Weer (known as ‘the widow of Joannes van Someren’). In 1677 they republished Hooft’s Nederlandsche Historien, now for the first time in an illustrated format. Between 1679 and 1684 they produced a new edition of Bor’s Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der Nederlandsche oorlogen, adorned with new double-folio etchings, and in 1681 they brought the first illustrated Dutch translation of Grotius’ Annales et Historiae de rebus Belgicis to the market. As was the case in the first cluster, one printmaker was central to the production of the illustrations. Many of the new etchings in these books entailed the first big project of the Amsterdam artist Jan Luyken, who would become one of the most productive and influential printmakers of the late seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.6

In the Dutch Republic, large illustrated histories on the Revolt were thus mainly produced in the first and last quarters of the seventeenth century, dominated by the work of two particular printmakers, Hogenberg and Luyken. While the textual content of these books remained relatively stable, the illustrations were subject to sweeping changes. Over the course of fifty years, the particular events chosen as topics for these etchings shifted, their physical dimensions changed, and so did the use of perspective and the relationship to text. Despite this profound shift, such differences have remained largely on the margins of scholarship on the Eighty Years’ War.7 Only in the past fifteen years historians have started to analyse the role of Dutch printed images during the Revolt, most prominently Daniel Horst in his De Opstand in zwart-wit, and Christi Klinkert in her study Nassau in het nieuws.8 More recently, Ramon Voges has published on Frans Hogenberg’s prints as historical sources sui generis9, whereas Lisa de Boer has expanded on the place of Hogenberg’s prints in early seventeenth-century Dutch histories.10 Post-war seventeenth-century illustrations, however, have largely remained outside the scope of historical research. An exception is Wolfgang Cilleßen’s article on continuity in Dutch illustrated books concerning the ‘Spanish Tyranny’.11 Importantly, Cilleßen has shown how these propaganda booklets discussing Spanish atrocities were printed throughout most of the seventeenth century, before being supplanted by books on the more acutely felt ‘French Tyranny’ from 1672 onwards.12

Where Cilleßen has shown a continuity in popular prints, I would like to offer a perspective on the changes in Dutch illustrated books aimed at a prosperous and learned public, as presented in the various editions of the works of Bor, Grotius, and Hooft. In this article I argue that changes in illustrations were rarely based on shifts in textual content. In fact, prints transformed drastically, even if the textual basis for illustrated histories remained fairly consistent over the course of the seventeenth century. To capture these changes, I compare the works of the two printmakers who were central to early and late seventeenth-century production, Frans Hogenberg and Jan Luyken respectively. Through their prolific outputs, I will show how a booming publishing industry in the late seventeenth-century Dutch Republic reinvented the image of the Revolt by binding it to the format of expensive and lavishly illustrated folio books.

Figure 1:  

Frans Hogenberg (attributed), The Spanish fury in Antwerp in 1576 (no title), 1577. A composition of Hogenberg’s different news prints of the Spanish Fury in Antwerp, 1576. The image on the lower-right corner would become iconic. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-76.862.

A new market for Revolt imagery

When a selection of Dutch publishers started to produce expensive illustrated books in the 1670s, established history works dedicated to the Revolt would have made a relatively ‘safe’ investment. Bor, Hooft, and Grotius were well-known and respected authors who appealed to a learned and prosperous readership. The fact that their works on the Revolt had already been published before did not represent an obstacle to such a venture. In fact, old books and their perceived defects provided Dutch publishers plenty of incentives to print new editions. Outdated spelling was updated, transcriptions of historical documents were added13, and new printed images were commissioned.

The publishers’ concerns regarding the defects of older editions were most clearly articulated in the 1679 edition of Bor’s Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der Nederlandsche oorlogen. The production of this book, with its new, large double-folio prints, presented a substantial undertaking and required the collaborative effort of the aforementioned collective of Amsterdam publishers, namely Hester de Weer (the widow of Joannes van Someren), Abraham Wolfgangh, and Hendrick and Dirck Boom. Jan Luyken was invited to design a significant number of the new etchings included in the book. Other well-known printmakers who worked on this particular edition included Romeyn de Hooghe, in a design executed by Luyken, and Coenraet Decker. The publishers themselves were keen to stress their different approach on illustrations in comparison to the earlier edition of Bor. In their address to the reader, they stated that one of the improvements over the old 1621 edition was that they had gotten rid of ‘d’oude slechte, konsteloose printen’ (the old bad, artless printed images).14

Clearly, the publishers considered the Hogenberg prints to be outdated and unfit for a new luxurious edition of Bor’s history. It is impossible, however, to pinpoint any formal qualities central to the publishers’ notion of ‘art’. Late seventeenth-century publishers were notoriously eager to qualify all kinds of images of different sizes and quality as ‘konstplaaten’ (art prints).15 Even cartographic siege views could be marketed under the category of ‘konst-plaaten’.16 The qualification of Hogenberg’s plates as ‘artless’ should first and foremost be read within the broader commercial context discussed in this article: as a common sales pitch that claimed that the new images were simply better than the old ones.

In comparison with the changing practices with regards to illustrations in expensive folio books, the contemporaneous Dutch production of cheap illustrated works demonstrated more continuity. Popular books on the so-called Spanish Black Legend – the stereotypical image of the Spanish as exceedingly cruel and intolerant – kept recycling the same themes and images throughout the seventeenth century, providing readers a mix of printed images adapted from the sixteenth-century designs of Hogenberg and Theodor de Bry, a Protestant Southern-Netherlandish printmaker who, like Hogenberg, had moved to the Holy Roman Empire to escape religious persecution.17 Yet these older printed images ceased to be the blueprint for illustrations in histories marketed towards a learned and affluent readership. The historian Claartje Rasterhoff has argued that during the period of growth in the Dutch printing industry from 1670 onwards, ‘the gap between cheap illustrated books and expensive illustrated books’ was widened.18 This article demonstrates that this change was especially salient for books on the Revolt. The inclusion of new images was confined to expensive illustrated books written by and for an audience of, as the historian Benjamin Schmidt states, ‘a more liberal and learned temperament’.19 In contrast, this evolution was absent in popular Reformed historiography. Illustrated books on the infamous ‘Spanish Tyranny’ kept reproducing older imagery, whereas the histories of Baudartius and Gysius, theologians who had produced highbrow renditions of popular Reformed interpretations of the Revolt20, were left out of the renewed production cycle from the 1670s onwards.

The new editions of Hooft (1677)21, Bor (1679), and Grotius (1681) showcased the growing divide between popular and learned, and between affordable and expensive. Essentially, these books were illustrated by an overlapping corpus of high-quality etchings; each work contained some original prints that were absent in other editions.22 The importance of these new etchings was not only stressed by the publishers’ gibe at the ‘artless’ Hogenberg prints. It was also underlined by the fact that both the new editions of Bor and Grotius included an index of images at the beginning of the book with corresponding page numbers. This then was not simply a list to inform the bookbinder where to insert the prints, as was common in this period, but it was an actual index or ‘register’ that could be used by the reader to browse directly to a specific image. An instruction to the bookbinder was often explicitly labelled as such, and normally put at the end of a book, which was not the case in either Bor or Grotius.

The introduction and promotion of these new printed images reached its peak in 1703, when a new generation of publishers created the iconic fourth edition of Hooft’s history. This new edition included the illustrations of the 1677 edition of Hooft, as well as those from Bor’s 1679 edition. The publishers in question, Henrik Wetstein (Amsterdam), Pieter Sceperus (Amsterdam), Daniel van den Dalen (Leiden), and Willem van de Water (Utrecht), eagerly stressed which images were new to this publication. After the dedication, we find an overview of all the images included in the text, sorted in two categories: small (single-folio) and large (double-folio).23 As stated in this index, all images marked with an asterisk were new ones not found in the previous edition, undoubtedly to prove the value of this edition above its older incarnation from 1677. As the text of 1703 incorporated few changes, pointing to newly added prints can indeed be seen as a sensible sales strategy – though it must be remembered that most illustrations were already more than twenty-five years old by that time. In any case, the use of such detailed image indexes seems to have been a somewhat isolated occurrence, possibly aimed specifically at print collectors.24

The creation of a new corpus of printed images on the Revolt was thus shaped by particular market forces, took place within a narrow subset of reruns of expensive illustrated folio books, and was initiated by a select number of Amsterdam publishers. These new images, however, would reconfigure the visual history of the Revolt. What, then, made these new ‘artful’ prints different from their so-called ‘artless’ predecessors?

‘Old, artless prints’

Prints on the Dutch Revolt came in all shapes and sizes: portraits, allegories, maps, as well as interpretations of particular events. These types were not absolute and could easily overlap with one another. However, illustrated histories from the two clusters of books in question contained prints relating mostly to the last category, namely the interpretations of particular war events. They offered sights of battles, sieges, executions, and massacres. As such, I have chosen to ignore illustrated books that contain only portraits in which the ‘visual’ history of the Dutch Revolt is limited to the faces of rulers. Printed portraits used in histories showed continuity across the seventeenth century and provided publishers limited room for change as these portraits often drew upon ‘the respectful lines of the original commission’.25

Figure 2:  

Frans Hogenberg, Massacre at Naarden (no title), circa 1572-1574. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-78.784-117.

In the first cluster of early seventeenth-century Dutch publications on the Revolt, most prominent and numerous were those illustrations that had been copied from or modelled on ‘news prints’ – the historiographical term for the type of broadsheet prints on contemporary news events that had come into being in the sixteenth century.26 These news prints consisted of a printed image in a broadsheet format combined with a short text or poem that clarified the images for the reader.27 The most influential sixteenth-century news prints on the Dutch Revolt were without a doubt those of Hogenberg. Hogenberg was shaped by his earlier work as a cartographer and by his religiously motivated flight from the Low Countries. Born in Mechelen in 1535, Hogenberg had worked for the Plantin printing house in Antwerp before fleeing to England in 1568 because of his Protestant leanings. Shortly thereafter, in 1570, Hogenberg settled in Cologne and started his successful career in the production of news prints.

Historical events, reaching back as far as the conquest of Tunis in 1535, were depicted in some of the earliest prints issued from the Hogenberg workshop.28 Later works, however, focused on contemporary news events. The ‘simplified style’ of the Hogenberg workshop ensured prints could be produced as fast as six days after news reports had reached Cologne.29 In the early seventeenth century, the Hogenberg workshop continued to produce news prints on the progress of the Eighty Years’ War. Being a collaborative effort, the Hogenberg firm had outlived the death of its founder in 1590 and continued its activities led by Frans’ son Abraham until 1631.30

All prominent early seventeenth-century Dutch illustrated history works on the Revolt drew heavily on Hogenberg’s productions. Bor’s Oorspronck, begin ende vervolgh der Nederlantsche Oorlogen (Leiden/Amsterdam 1621-1634) relied largely on smaller copies of Hogenberg’s prints. The same applies to Baudartius’ history of the Eighty Years’ War from 1615, Afbeeldinghe, ende beschrijvinghe van alle de veld-slagen, belegeringen [...] (Amsterdam), which was essentially a picture book composed of Hogenberg’s news prints with additional textual descriptions. Similarly to Bor’s work, Gysius’ Oorsprongen voortgang der Nederlandtscher beroerten ende ellendicheden (Leiden 1616) reproduced Hogenberg’s designs in smaller format.31

Figure 3:  

Anonymous after Frans Hogenberg, Massacre at Naarden (no title), 1613-1615, in: Willem Baudartius, Polemographia Auraico-Belgica. Part I (Amsterdam, 1621-1622) page 107. This is the same plate as used in Bor’s 1621 edition. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-79.210.

In these Dutch history books, Hogenberg’s work was thus transformed from contemporary news prints into a series of book illustrations of more distant historical events. Yet despite their changing function – from news prints to illustrations in history books – the appearance of these prints remained largely unaltered. This was not necessarily in conflict with Hogenberg’s own practices. As a printer and publisher, Hogenberg not only produced prints on contemporary events, but also gave his news prints a second life as part of extensive picture albums.32 In these bundled series, the ‘news print’ as a singular impression of a news event was repurposed for an image that functioned in a larger sequence of prints on historical events. This format suggested cause and effect between consecutive printed images, as well as a linear sense of history.33

The influence of the news print as a genre is evident in the illustrated edition of Bor’s history on the Revolt published between 1621 and 1634. Most prints in this work were copied after Hogenberg and reworked into a smaller format so as to fit as in-text illustrations.34 These illustrations largely employed a bird’s-eye view, characteristic of Hogenberg’s prints, providing a panoramic view of the events and relying on cartographic and topographic cues.35 The same principle applies to a number of new prints by Simon Frisius produced in 1613-1615 and mostly based on Dutch news prints. Frisius followed Hogenberg’s style, and his images mainly consisted of cityscapes and bird’s-eye views.36

Thanks to the panoramic views in Hogenberg’s prints, sieges and pitched battles often gave the reader the impression that he or she got a good overview of the major troop movements, siegeworks, and skirmishes. Rather than focusing on a single dramatic moment, the prints in Bor followed a diachronic sequence, suggesting that these prints displayed a ‘truthful’ and all-encompassing history of the Revolt.37 By showing how particular events followed up to one another, these prints claimed to portray what had ‘truly’ happened – a claim that often served partisan readings of history.38 Even prints that lacked cartographic elements fitted the panoramic and diachronic style. Prints on public events, plundering troops, and executions also incorporated this bird’s-eye view and included cityscapes with recognisable iconic buildings.39 In this way, the images communicated the general impact of the event rather than a personal narrative. The famous images of the Spanish Fury in Antwerp, for instance, show crowded scenes with numerous figures, and thereby stressed the massive amount of violence inflicted upon the Antwerp citizens (figure 1). The distinct use of maps and sprawling cityscapes was similarly not without reason. As Voges has pointed out, Hogenberg used his experience with earlier publications on cityscapes and maps to add to the veracity of his news prints on the Revolt.40 Moreover, the dominance of siege warfare in the Eighty Years’ War equally favoured the prominence of mapmakers in the creation of news prints. If sieges were to be shown in their entirety, the map provided a useful framework.41

Bor revisited

The first cluster of illustrated history books on the Revolt were heavily indebted to the broadsheet prints that had visualised news events from the late sixteenth century onwards. In this respect, one can speak of a relative continuity. However, the second cluster of new folio editions of the works of Bor, Grotius, and Hooft published in the second half of the seventeenth century, more than 20 years after the Revolt had come to an end, were all illustrated with newly designed prints. Here too, a certain level of continuity remained: older prints provided the basis for new prints to varying degrees42, portraits remained a popular staple of history books, as did detailed maps of the Dutch Republic and its most prominent cities. Yet, the composition of many other prints, their focus on personal stories, as well as the condensation of dramatic events, marked a clear break from Hogenberg’s etchings.

These changes are especially salient in Bor’s work, which was completely revamped in the new edition published in four parts between 1679 and 1684. Many of the new etchings in Bor’s new edition were produced by Jan Luyken, who created twenty-seven double-folio prints. What then did Luyken do differently from his predecessors who had repurposed Hogenberg’s prints?

The most important change was perhaps the novel use of perspective and composition. A comparison of the prints dedicated to the Massacre of Naarden in the Bor editions of 1621 and 1679 illustrates this element of change. The Naarden bloodbath played a crucial role in Dutch histories on the Revolt. This internally divided city hesitantly joined the Revolt in 1572. When the Spanish army closed in on Naarden in the same year, it became clear that the city was lacking in defences. Unable to defend themselves, the citizens handed over the keys of the city to the Spanish Lieutenant-Colonel Juliano Romero in hopes of being spared the fate of other fallen rebellious cities. Soon after, Spanish soldiers entered the city and gathered the men of Naarden in a chapel under the pretext of overseeing a renewal of the citizenry’s oath of loyalty to the king. Once inside, Spanish troops massacred Naarden’s menfolk, and burned and plundered the city.43 The destruction of Naarden became an important atrocity tale in Dutch ‘patriotic scripture’, that, in the eyes of the Dutch rebels, confirmed the presumed untrustworthiness of the Spanish.44

Bor narrated this bloodbath in his history, describing the false pretext under which the Spanish army had called the citizenry of Naarden to the chapel, as well as the subsequent massacre and looting. In the 1621 edition, this story was illustrated by a copy of Hogenberg’s news print produced shortly after the event in 1572 (figures 2 and 3).45 In this print, we see the cityscape of Naarden and the surrounding region. The key moments of the sack are all represented in the same print: the Spanish troops gathering outside of the city and then entering through one of the gates; the murder of the citizenry; and, finally, the plundering and burning of the city. In contrast to the canonical version of the massacre as described by Bor, Hogenberg showed the citizens, including women and children, being amassed on the market square rather than in the chapel. The caption in the original print (figure 2) underlines this interpretation and states that women, men and children were gathered on the market square. Hogenberg either lacked crucial information at the time of publication, or chose to portray the massacre in an open space in order to give it a more prominent place. Regardless, with the re-use of this Hogenberg print in Bor, the illustration contradicted the accompanying textual description.

Figure 4:  

Jan Luyken, De Moordt der Spanjaarden te Naerden geschiedt[...] (The massacre by the Spaniards at Naarden [...]), 1679, in: Pieter Christiaansz. Bor, Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der Nederlandsche oorlogen. Part I (Amsterdam 1679) page 418. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-1896-A-19368-53.

This inconsistency between text and image was remedied in the 1679 edition. Luyken’s print of Naarden condenses the massacre to the dramatic moment in the chapel where the Spanish commander signals for the massacre to start (figure 4). The perspective is shifted to a lower point, so that the reader is positioned as standing on the chapel floor. The chain of events is reduced to a minimum, and consists of the Spanish commander gesturing, the Spanish troops entering the chapel, the simultaneous unfolding of the massacre, and, finally, a number of men fleeing the onslaught by climbing along the walls or seeking refuge at the altar. Compared to the Hogenberg print, Luyken takes a radically different approach. Instead of providing a panoramic overview of the sack of Naarden from a bird’s-eye view, Luyken dramatises the beginning of the massacre by portraying the pivotal moment in the city’s destruction and condensing the image in time and place. If Hogenberg presents history as a sequence of events, Luyken turns history into one dramatic, split-second moment.46

While Luyken’s etching of Naarden differs considerably from Hogenberg’s interpretation, more similarities can be found with Hogenberg’s rendering of the Massacre of Vassy, which took place in 1562 during the French Wars of Religion.47 Around 1570, Hogenberg had issued a print of the infamous massacre which had taken place in a Huguenot church in Vassy as part of an album copied after the woodcut series by Jacques Tortorel and Jean Perrissin (figure 5). Like Luyken’s print, it portrays a massacre taking place in a church. Apart from the soldiers rushing into the building with a gesturing commander at the centre, the print likewise displays people climbing towards the roof. It is not unlikely that Luyken was familiar with this scene, either through the original work of Tortorel and Perrissin, or through the Hogenberg copy. Nonetheless, Luyken’s illustration still differs in terms of overview and perspective. In Hogenberg’s print, the viewer is positioned on a higher level and can survey the entire church. The church itself is ‘opened up’ by removing the wall from the side facing the reader (a technique Hogenberg often used)48, and the buildings and figures outside the church are equally part of the composition. As with Hogenberg’s Naarden print, there is the suggestion of showing a complete and ‘truthful’ image with a privileged place for the reader who can oversee the entire church and its surroundings.49 In contrast, Luyken’s print positions the reader on the chapel floor, with a limited view of the interior. The exterior can be observed only vaguely through the door of the chapel. Unlike the Hogenberg prints, Luyken’s illustration employs strong contrasts of light and dark to further strengthen the immersive nature of the print. The light falling through the open door enables the printmaker to divide the chaotic massacre into three well-ordered horizontal lines.

Figure 5:  

Frans Hogenberg, Murder of the Protestants in Vassy (no title), circa 1565-1573, copy after Jean Tortorel and Jacques Perrissin, Premier volume contenant quarante tableaux ou Histoires diverses qui sont memorables touchant les Guerres, Massacres et Troubles (Geneva circa 1570). © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-78.671.

The shift towards the display of a historical event as a condensed and dramatic moment is visible in many prints created for the reissue of Bor’s work. It can, for instance, be discerned in Luyken’s print of the capture of Briel and Breda, as well as of the French and Spanish Furies in Antwerp. In all of these prints, the viewpoint is shifted to a lower elevation, and time and place are compressed in order to dramatise the portrayed events. Luyken was not alone in this approach. Similar characteristics can be found in the print of the assassination of William of Orange, an image executed by Luyken but designed by the controversial and enormously productive Amsterdam printmaker Romeyn de Hooghe.50 Here, too, we observe a close-up, in which the printmaker focuses on the pistol shot by Balthasar Gerards and the shocked reactions of bystanders. In all aspects, this was a far cry from the Hogenberg news print on the same topic, which again shows an overview of the different events leading up to the assassination, all squeezed into one broadsheet print.51

Within the corpus of Luyken’s prints for the 1679 edition of Bor, the illustration on the Spanish Fury in Antwerp was in many ways the most innovative. This print is an interesting case, as Luyken here favoured an unverified personal story of a ransacked wedding in Antwerp over Hogenberg’s exhaustive overview of the Spanish Fury. In addition to a description of the events that led to the capture and plundering of Antwerp by mutineering Spanish soldiers, Bor narrated the story of a couple that celebrated their wedding in Antwerp on the fateful day the Spanish Fury unfolded. When the looting started, Spanish soldiers entered and plundered the house of the newlywed couple. The groom and father of the bride were murdered, and the bride herself was assaulted and finally dragged through the streets before being robbed of her jewellery and strangled.52

Figure 6:  

Jan Luyken, Afgryselyke wreedheyd der Spanjaarden in de plonderinge van Antwerpen gepleegt aen seekere Bruyd Ao 1576 (Horrible cruelty of the Spaniards, during the plundering of Antwerp inflicted on a certain bride, Anno 1576), 1679, in: Pieter Christiaensz. Bor, Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der Nederlandsche Oorlogen. Part I (Amsterdam 1679) page 731. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-79.656.

It is unclear where this popular story originated. As the historians Peter Arnade and Simon Schama have pointed out, Hooft would further exploit this story from Bor’s 1621 edition in his 1642 history of the Revolt, where Hooft augmented it with a personal experience of his wife’s grandmother, who herself was a refugee from Antwerp.53 Yet Hogenberg did not dedicate any of his prints to the fate of the anonymous bride. Instead, the Hogenberg workshop focused on the presentation of a hellish cityscape with the Antwerp city hall in flames, people driven over the city walls, the torturing Spanish troops, and a bird’s-eye view of the city. These prints were reproduced both in illustrated histories of the early seventeenth century and in popular propaganda booklets.

In Bor’s 1679 edition, however, Luyken did not reproduce the traditional imagery of the sack of Antwerp. Instead, he condensed the visualisation of the Spanish Fury into the singular image of the Antwerp bride (figure 6). In his print, the viewer is positioned within the setting of an Antwerp house. To the right we see the bride sitting on the lap of her mother. At her feet lies the body of the groom; around her, the mutineers loot the house. In Luyken’s print, the hanging of the civilians, which was central to the traditional Hogenberg image, is only vaguely visible through the door opening on the left. Effectively, the efforts of the Amsterdam publishers to reprint histories of the Revolt thus went hand in hand with a new visual interpretation of key events in the Revolt, in this case by capturing the sixty year old personal story of the Antwerp bride.

The renewed production of images did not only give new interpretations to key events like the sack of Naarden and the Spanish Fury in Antwerp, which had already been the topics of prints in the sixteenth century, but it also brought events to life that had hitherto never been captured in printed images. In the 1679 edition of Bor, the most prominent example is the execution of Don Pedro Pacieco, a Spanish nobleman who had fallen into the hands of the Geuzen by unwittingly sailing into the rebel-held city of Vlissingen (figure 7).54 The print itself condenses Pacieco’s fate by focusing on the dramatic final moments preceding his execution: the nobleman reaches the end of the ladder, his hands are clasped in prayer and his face is directed towards heaven. In doing so, the 1679 Bor edition completely reversed the established iconography of the Revolt. Instead of showing images of executions stereotypically connected to the persecution of Protestants, the sole print in Bor’s new edition dealing with an execution concerned an unfortunate Spaniard. And yet again, Luyken compressed this more personal story to its dramatic climax, similarly to his prints on the massacre of Naarden and the Antwerp bride.55

Figure 7:  

Jan Luyken, Don Pedro Pacieco opper krygs bouwmeester des H. van Alva, nevens twee Spaensche Jonkers Opgehangen tot Vlissingen in den Jaare 1572 (Don Pedro Pacieco military engineer of the Duke of Alba hanged together with two Spanish noblemen in Vlissingen in the year 1572) 1679, in: Pieter Christiaensz. Bor, Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der Nederlandsche Oorlogen. Part I (Amsterdam 1679) page 370. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-79.185.

The preference for dramatic and visually innovative scenes as found in the 1679 edition of Bor was equally visible in books that covered larger parts of history, including the Dutch Revolt. For Gottfried’s Historische kronyck (Leiden 1698-1700), Jan Luyken, together with his son Casper, produced around 200 new prints, of which a number dealt with events from the Eighty Years’ War.56 Naturally, there was the obligatory print portraying the torture and execution of Protestants during the reign of Philip II.57 Yet, in other prints, the printmakers portrayed personal, dramatic, or obscure events that had never been part of the visual history of the Revolt. As such, the chronicle included a print on a cease-fire during the 1637 siege of Breda, showing Dutch and Spanish soldiers sharing drinks.58 However, the most striking example is undoubtedly the print of the 1622 Spanish siege of Bergen op Zoom, in which we see a complete reversal of the stereotypical portrayal of the Black Legend (figure 8). This particular etching presented the wondrous story about the death of a pregnant Spanish camp woman. According to the chronicle, the woman was washing clothes in a nearby body of water when she was hit by a stray cannonball shot from the besieged city of Bergen op Zoom, completely severing her upper body. A number of Spanish soldiers dragged the woman’s remains onto land, only to find that the child she was carrying had emerged unharmed.59 In itself, the choice for the illustration of this extraordinary event was already a departure from the older representations of siege warfare. After all, as David Kunzle has argued, textual accounts of sieges produced during the Eighty Years’ War differed strongly from their visual counterparts: the former being full of ‘supernatural or occult phenomena’, the latter focusing instead on cartographic elements.60 In this vein, contemporary images of the 1622 siege provided detailed maps that focused more on the technical rather than on the wondrous.61

Figure 8:  

Casper Luyken, Spanish soldiers rescue a newly born child after her mother has been killed by cannon fire at the 1622 siege of Bergen op Zoom (no title), in: Johann Ludwig Gottfried, Historische kronyck; vervattende een nauwkeurige en volkomene beschrijvingh der aldergedenckwaerdigste geschiedenissen des weerelds[...]. Part I (Leiden 1698) page 1327. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-1896-A-19368-1431.

The story of the Spanish camp woman is potentially even more striking in its illustrated format. In most printed images produced during the seventeenth-century, Spaniards are stereotypically portrayed as monsters who kill women and children with few reservations. Yet, in the print of Casper Luyken, the Spanish soldiers gather around the child in amazement, as one of them carefully presents the child to an officer. Instead of being framed within the visual tradition of the Black Legend, the soldiers are placed in relation to the theme of the wondrous salvation of children. This connection is underlined in the chronicle itself, as the same composition is used in another print that portrays a child emerging unscathed from under a fallen church bell. Yet the print might also remind readers of biblical images of the rescue of Moses from the river, especially through the act of raising the child out of the water (figure 9).

By 1700, book illustrations on the Revolt had thus changed in function, form, and content. Moving away from the detailed siege maps and cityscapes of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, warfare could now be captured through a miraculous event that showed Spanish soldiers saving a child whose mother had been blown apart by Dutch cannon fire. Prints of executions were no longer solely concerned with ‘Spanish cruelty’. In the same manner, prints on well-known atrocity tales had shifted to the display of condensed dramatic moments or the fate of specific individuals, anonymous or named. By 1700, the image of the Revolt in illustrated histories moved away from reworked news and propaganda prints to plates portraying ‘human interest’ stories and dramatic events. In short, the imagery of the Revolt had become a more varied, personal, and wondrous affair.

Figure 9:  

The finding of Moses compared to the miraculous salvation of children in Gottfrieds Historische kronyck, selection by the author. Top left: Casper Luyken, The finding of Moses by the daughter of the pharaoh (no title), 1698, in: Titus Flavius Josephus, xx. boeken van de oude geschiedenissen der joden. Part I (Amsterdam 1698). © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-44.655. Top right: Casper Luyken, The finding of Moses by the daughter of the pharaoh (no title), 1712, in: Jan Luyken, De schriftuurlyke geschiedenissen en gelykenissen van het Oude en Nieuwe Verbond. Part I(Amsterdam 1712). © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-45.798. Bottom left: See figure 8. Bottom right: Jan Luyken, A child survives an earthquake in San Severo, 1627 (no title), 1698, in: Johann Ludwig Gottfried, Historische kronyck; vervattende een nauwkeurige en volkomene beschrijvingh der aldergedenckwaerdigste geschiedenissen des weerelds[...]. Part I (Leiden 1698) page 1445. © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, RP-P-1896-A-19368-1445.

A new vision for the Revolt?

How should we account for this shift in the visualisation of the Revolt? Historian Judith Pollmann has argued that in the Dutch Republic descriptions of the recent and distant past in general became more emotive and personal in the course of the seventeenth century.62 This change covered different cultural practices and media. Martyr prints became focused on new sensibilities – portraying not only gruesome executions but also the separation of families and the fate of orphaned children.63 Historians together with playwrights and preachers moved in the same direction, with a newfound focus on personal stories of grief, horror, and violence.64 Indeed, in some aspects Luyken seems to have taken cues from contemporary theatre. As literary historian Marijke Meijer Drees has pointed out, seventeenth-century theatre plays on the siege of Leiden changed from a ‘distant’ perspective to a more personal one, in which the agency and suffering of fleshed-out characters played an important role.65 A number of Luyken’s designs also seem to resemble theatrical stages, with a frontal view of a confined space.66 As such, the prints might have tapped into the increasing popularity of visual spectacle and tableaux vivants in the Amsterdam theatre during the second half of the seventeenth century – though we can only speculate about any overlap between readership and theatre audiences.67

At the same time, changes in printed images cannot only be explained by the evolving nature of other media. Both the shifting function of the images themselves and the economic conditions underlying their production were equally important. These two aspects could explain why prints in expensive folio works specifically were subject to change, whereas their cheaper counterparts were not. As Cilleßen has shown, popular atrocity propaganda circulating in the Dutch Republic, with a focus on Spanish and later on French soldiers, remained largely unchanged throughout the seventeenth century.68 Anti-French prints produced in the wake of the Disaster Year relied largely on older anti-Spanish imagery that was already deeply embedded in Dutch society, functioning through recognition and repetition rather than on the promise of ‘new’ images. As such, the potential for polemics as found in the older Hogenberg prints did not disappear altogether, but was instead transferred to popular propaganda prints on the vices of French soldiers. In contrast, the illustrations in the expensive books on the Revolt produced by Amsterdam publishers did not need to persuade or inform. The war had already been over for thirty years, and many of the events portrayed by Luyken went back a full century. Instead, these illustrations needed to serve as attractive images for prospective customers, the ‘vain people’ Hooft’s publisher so eagerly talked about.69 As a result, the image of the Revolt was reworked in expensive illustrated books in the 1670s, whereas older modes of representation remained relevant and useful in the context of contemporary popular polemics and propaganda.70

It is equally important to keep in mind that Luyken’s new illustrations relied on tried and tested stories. The account of the Antwerp bride, for instance, had already circulated in textual form in history books for at least half a century before it was finally turned into a printed image for Bor’s 1679 edition.71 So far, this timeline has not received enough attention. Historian Amanda Pipkin, for instance, argued that Hooft went beyond the ‘epic style’ of Bor by ‘adding’ the personal story of the bride. This claim is incorrect, since Bor had already narrated this anecdote some twenty years earlier in his 1621 edition.72 In 1679 then, it was not the story in itself that was new, but rather the printed image of the story. Effectively, by removing the Hogenberg’s overview of the Spanish Fury and adding Luyken’s print of the Antwerp bride, the publishers of the 1679 edition shifted the focus in Bor’s story from generalized murder and plunder to a sentimental story of great personal drama.73

As the case of the Antwerp bride shows, printmakers and publishers created meaning explicitly through the production of new images as much as they did so implicitly through omission, adding and removing prints that each accentuated different parts of textual narratives. The visual history of the Eighty Years’ War also shows elements of continuity and elements of change were fostered simultaneously, depending on the readership targeted by the publishers. The anti-French propaganda prints demonstrate a form of continuity, as printmakers readily tapped into old visual tropes concerning the Black Legend from Hogenberg’s corpus on the Revolt. Paradoxically, actual images dealing with the Revolt, as found in the late seventeenth-century history books discussed here, did change, precisely because these illustrations were produced after the Dutch Revolt and no longer needed to operate within the bounds of religious and political polemics. The war was long over, and new enemies, the French in particular, had appeared on the horizon. This changing historical context also meant that Luyken’s illustrations did not need to function as information-dense representations of news events, as had been the case for the Hogenberg prints. Thus, in contrast to the original Hogenberg prints, which only had received a few lines of explanatory text, the illustrations for the 1679 edition of Bor were accompanied by thousands of pages of text to fill in the necessary details for the reader. This new context enabled Luyken to focus on a dramatic condensation of historical events instead of reproducing the diachronic overviews characteristic of Hogenberg. The primary role of these prints was no longer to spread (partisan) news, or to convince the reader of providing factual information, or even to argue against the truce with the Spanish, as had been the case for the atrocity propaganda produced during The Twelve Years’ Truce. Instead, the 1670s had seen a crystallisation of dominant narratives on the Revolt in the Republic, partly due to the pressure of the French invasion of 1672.74 In this light, it is perhaps unsurprising that the more polemical histories written during the truce by Reformed theologians like Gysius and Baudartius were left out of the renewed publication cycle that started off in the 1670s: the end of the war had left less space for these virulent narratives, especially in the burgeoning market for luxurious folio books.


If anything, Luyken’s prints were not simply illustrations that passively reflected the accompanying text. Just as Hogenberg’s prints had been central to the imagination of the Revolt during the war itself, Luyken’s work was central to its post-war reinterpretation. In a number of cases, Luyken was the first printmaker to portray stories that had circulated for more than fifty years in textual format. Simultaneously, the shift towards new subjects also meant a move away from the tried and tested atrocity propaganda based on Hogenberg’s work. Neither the 1679 edition of Bor nor the 1703 edition of Hooft portrayed the infamous executions of Egmont and Hoorne. Yet both editions did include Luyken’s print of Pacieco, whose dramatic final moments were captured in a luxurious double-folio etching. Effectively, the end of the war had allowed for a different image of the Spanish enemy. No print did this more strikingly than Casper Luyken’s work on Bergen op Zoom, which completely ignored the stereotype of infant-killing Spaniards that continued to circulate in popular print. Indeed, popular propaganda prints relied primarily on reproducing old tropes, whereas the illustrations from luxurious books analysed in this article sought to present new victims as well as new perpetrators.

From a broad perspective, the shift from Hogenberg to Luyken ties together changes in seventeenth-century memory culture, printmaking, and publishing. On the one hand, the move away from polemics and the news print format opened up a broader range of topics to be visualised within luxurious illustrated folio books. On the other hand, general developments in the Dutch Republic towards an increasingly personal and dramatic interpretation of history allowed for these subjects, whether these concerned innocent brides or Spanish officers, to be displayed in a novel and spectacular manner. Yet, most importantly, publishers recognised that reprinting old texts had limited appeal. Publishers stressed the importance of these new luxurious prints with the use of registers, at times even making clear distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ prints.

Finally, the Amsterdam publishers themselves implicitly described the shift from Hogenberg to Luyken as a shift from ‘artless’ to ‘artful’. As publishers in the late seventeenth century eagerly qualified all kinds of images, including cartographic siege views, as ‘konst-plaaten’, this remark seems to have had little to do with the composition or content of the images in question. Perhaps the publishers’ comment referred simply to the fact that Luyken’s prints were far more detailed and included many more etched lines than the copies of Hogenberg’s work. Yet it is more likely that the publishers’ statement was first and foremost a formulaic claim that their edition provided something ‘new’ and better: new images to replace the ‘old’ Hogenberg prints. In other words, the publishers made a commercial claim about providing a product that was better than the work of their predecessors. If historians have often ignored Luyken’s prints, their importance was clearly a given for late seventeenth-century publishers and their customers. They realised that the real changes in these expensive histories did not concern the text, but the images.