The ratification of the Treaty of Münster of 1648

The ratification of the Treaty of Münster of 1648

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© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Franck Raux

Publication date: September 2019

Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director

Historical context

A copy for the Museum of the History of France

This canvas is the replica painted in 1837 by Claude Jacquand of a work produced by Gerard Ter Broch in 1648. By faithfully reproducing the swearing-in after the ratification of the peace between the Spaniards and the Flemings, at the town hall of Münster on May 15, 1648, Jacquand (1803-1878) continued his career as a history painter. It mainly benefits from orders placed by the State to supply the Museum of the History of France installed at the Palace of Versailles, according to the wishes of Louis-Philippe Ier. By reproducing the work of Ter Borch, Jacquand therefore participates in the enhancement of "all the glories of France" and contributes to the enrichment of the national collections by copies commissioned from artists of the 19th century.e century.

Gerard Ter Broch (1617-1681) himself witnessed the event that was the signing of the peace of 1648 between Spain and the United Provinces at the end of the Thirty Years' War. Faithful to the Flemish portrait painter tradition in which he successfully inscribed himself, he chose to seize a large assembly, in accordance with the importance of the delegations coming to negotiate in the heart of Europe the end of one of the deadliest wars of the 'modern era.

Image Analysis

An assembly of European plenipotentiaries

In a large room lit by high windows, the representatives of the very Catholic Spain and the very Protestant United Provinces gathered at the town hall of Münster to take the oath on May 15, 1648. The scene captures the event at the time. where the Flemings, dressed in black at the center of the composition, raise their hands to swear to respect the newly signed peace with the Spaniards - one of them, Barthold van Gent, ostensibly holds the Flemish version of the oath to make it reading. Two Spaniards place a hand on a Bible held open by a cross, guaranteeing the good faith of the service providers, one of them also holding a Spanish version of the oath - we recognize the two Spanish plenipotentiaries Gaspar de Bracamonte y Gusman , Count of Peñaranda, on the left (who takes the oath) and Antoine Brun on the right. In fact, it was the Spaniards who took the oath first, followed by the Flemings. The choice of Ter Broch condenses the event for greater dramatic intensity.

A crowd of seventy-seven attend the ceremony, all focused on the solemn act at hand. Some of them invite the spectator to participate in the event, to testify to its importance. They surround a table covered with a blue velvet carpet and on which rest official documents and seals, probably the authentic acts of peace signed on the previous January 30, ratified by Philip IV of Spain on the 1er March, then by the United Provinces on April 18.

The costumes and the setting are faithfully represented, with a wealth of detail, even if the general arrangement of the actors adopted by Ter Broch remains artificial and subject to the need to embrace all the participants at a glance. The comparison of the faces with the contemporary portraits of the plenipotentiaries by Van Hulle, Bignon or Moncornet reveals a sense of precision characteristic of the art of portrait in Ter Broch and allows the identification of about twenty painted figures.


A peace treaty for Europe

The peace treaty signed in Münster on January 30, 1648 between Spain and the United Provinces sealed the end of an eight-decade antagonism. Begun in 1568, when the Flemings decided to free themselves from the sovereignty of the crown of Spain, the conflict had provisionally stopped in 1609, before resuming in favor of a general deflagration of Europe from of 1618, against a background of religious rift between Catholics and Protestants. For thirty years (1618-1648), all of Western and Central Europe was the prey of a large-scale conflict, which became the Thirty Years' War for posterity, which caused several million deaths and led to a new map of the world. European balance. The supremacy of the Habsburgs in Vienna and Madrid was faded in favor of the rising power of France, which would be confirmed in the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The peace treaties of 1648 - the peace of Münster of January 30, 1648 was completed by other treaties signed in Münster and Osnabrück on October 24, 1648, mainly between France, the Holy Empire and Sweden - were also at the basis of a new diplomacy, experienced in the heart of Westphalia, in the two chosen cities for the peace negotiations, Osnabrück and Münster.

The performance of Ter Broch testifies well to the diplomatic effervescence which reigned in Münster during the decade 1640. The crowd of diplomats, but also the solemnity of the moment, returns to the capital importance of the signing of peace between the Spaniards and the Flemings. It is probable that the official recognition of the United Provinces by the Spanish crown after eighty years of war could only seem an event worthy of being painted to the Flemish Ter Broch, who represented himself at the left end of the work. , mustache and red hair, his gaze turned towards the viewer. It is also one of the earliest (if not the first) examples of contemporary painting that pretends to be realistic. The resumption of this work for the Museum of the History of France under the reign of Louis-Philippe, for its part, clearly reflects the inclusion of the event in a European diplomatic history in which it constitutes a turning point favorable to French power within a new balance between states.

  • Spain
  • Münster
  • Versailles
  • Louis Philippe
  • Thirty Years' War
  • United Provinces
  • Philip IV of Spain
  • Europe
  • Catholicism
  • Protestantism
  • Habsburg
  • Holy Empire
  • Sweden
  • Treaty of the Pyrenees
  • diplomacy
  • Great Century
  • Westphalia


Lucien BELY (dir.), The Europe of the Westphalian Treaties, Spirit of Diplomacy and Diplomacy of the Spirit, University Press of France, 2000.

Hélène DUCCINI, War and peace in the France of the Grand Siècle. Abel Servien: diplomat and servant of the state (1593-1659), Champ Vallon, 2012.

Claire GANTET, The Peace of Westphalia (1648). A social history, 17th-18th centuries, Belin, 2001.

Collective, 1648 The Peace of Westphalia. Towards modern Europe, National Printing Office, 1998.

To cite this article

Jean HUBAC, "The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster of 1648"


  • Thirty Years' War: European war which ravaged in particular the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) from 1618 to 1659. The origin of the conflict is religious: the expansion of the Reformation in Germany opposes the princes and sovereigns Catholics.

  • Video: The Peace of Westphalia in 5 minutes


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