|Title||Joanna of Flanders Freeing Prisoners|
|Collection||Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle|
|Artist||Vinckboons, David (Flemish painter, 1576-ca. 1632)|
|Description||This painting probably represents an episode from the life of Joanna of Flanders, Duchess of Brittany, who played a significant role during the Hundred Years War. The evocation of the bravery of a Flemish woman leading her husband's troops against the Spaniards must have provided an historical model of heroism resonant with the situation of the Southern Netherlands in the early seventeenth century. David Vinckboons produced various series of images of the disastrous effects of the Spanish occupation on the life of Flemish peasants before the Twelve Year Truce. This picture corresponds to that stage in Vinckboons's career.|
|Current Accession Number||B.M.241|
|Former Accession Number||No. 120|
|Inscription||front ur 'DVB [monogram] 1605'|
|Subject||history (Joanna of Flanders, Hundred Years War)|
|Measurements||19.8 x 30 cm.0 cm (estimate)|
|Material||oil on canvas|
|Acquisition Details||Bequeathed by the founders John and Joséphine Bowes 1885.|
|Provenance||Purchased by John and Joséphine Bowes, 1862, 60 francs.|
|Principal Exhibitions||The Cabinet Picture: Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Richard Green Gallery, London, 1999.|
|Publications||Wright, Christopher, The Cabinet Picture: Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, London, 1999, ill. p. 204.|
The title of the painting was formerly believed to refer to Joanna of Flanders (1202-1244), Countess of Flanders and Hainaut, and daughter of the founder of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. However, it is more likely to represent Joanna of Flanders (about 1295-1374) Countess of Montfort, sister of Louis de Crécy, Count of Flanders, and daughter of the Count of Nevers. She became Duchess of Brittany on her marriage to John IV in 1329. Joanna played a prominent role in what historian E. Perroy called 'the quarrel over Brittany' during the Hundred Years War. She confronted the party led by Charles de Blois and his wife, Joan of Penthièvre, in the so-called 'war of the two Joans', colourful episodes of which are recounted in Jean Froissart's Chroniques.
The painting could refer to the siege of Hennebont in 1341. Learning that her husband had been taken prisoner in Paris, Joanna took his place to harangue their supporters:
Et comment elle ewist grant doel au coer, si ne fist elle mies comme femme desconfortée, mès comme homs fiers et hardis, en reconfortant vaillamment tous ses amis et ses saudoiiers. Et leur monstroit un petit fil que elle avoit, que on appelloit Jehan ensi que le père, et disoit: 'Ha! signeur, ne vous desconfortés mies ne esbahissiés pour mon signeur que nous avons perdu: ce n'estoit que un seulz homs. Veés ci mon petit enfant qui sera.. ses restoriers, et qui vous fera des biens assés. Et vous pourcacerai tèle chapitainne et tel mainbour par cui vous serés tous reconfortés'.. Elle ala par toutes ses bonnes villes et ses forterèces, et menoit son jone fil avoecques lui; et les sermonnoit et reconfortoit en tèle manière... Froissart's narrative continues with Joanna's retreat with her young son to the reconquered Hennebont, where she visited the garrisons and comforted the local populace.
The quarrel over Brittany has been described as a confrontation between the gentry, towns and peasants of the Breton-speaking west, who supported Monfort against the clergy, the nobility and the French-speaking countryside, who defended Blois's claims. The former received additional support from England, whereas Blois's troops included Frenchmen and Spaniards, led by the brother of Charles of Spain, Admiral Luis de la Cerda, who set siege to Hennebont.
The act of resistance of Joanna of Flanders against Spanish armies might explain Vinckboons's choice of subject in the context of the wars following the Dutch Revolt (see Froissart, J., Chroniques. Livre I (trans. and ed. P. F. Ainsworth and G. T. Diller), Paris, 2001, p. 365; see also Perroy, E., The Hundred Years War, London, 1951, pp. 114-15).
|Rights Owner||The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham|
|Author||Dr Mercedes Cerón|