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Banquet of the Civic Guard
Detail of painting "Banquet of the Civic Guard" by Van der Helst, 1648.


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Painting "Banquet of the Civic Guard" by Van der Helst

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Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster in the year 1648. A fine militia-company picture, done a little later than Rembrandt's Night Watch and about as near to the historical canvas on a large scale as the Amsterdam Dutch ever came.

It is really a series of individual portraits put together with such unity as the subject would allow.

In this picture the standard-bearer is central and is meant to balance Captain Witsen (with a drinking-horn on the right) and the old man with the yellow stockings (standing at the left); but with the unlooked-for result that the standard-bearer in blue comes forward and the sides rather recede.

The variety of pose in head, hand, and figure is remarkable in the hands particularly. It has been said that if all the hands in this picture should be cut off and thrown into a basket they could be identified and put back on their respective bodies, so individually are they drawn, and so absolutely does each pair of hands belong to its own particular body.

In fact, the picture is more remarkable for its individual portraiture than for its composition or unity. The group as a whole lacks subordination, air, and oneness of colour. But it is certainly a remarkable group of portraits.

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