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Willem Duyster, Soldiers fighting over Booty in a Barn

Key facts
Full title Soldiers fighting over Booty in a Barn
Artist Willem Duyster
Artist dates 1599 - 1635
Date made about 1623-4
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 37.6 × 57 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1893
Inventory number NG1386
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Soldiers fighting over Booty in a Barn
Willem Duyster

During the Dutch Revolt of 1568–1648, when the northern Netherlands fought against their Spanish overlords, military scenes became increasingly popular. Willem Duyster was one of the artists who specialised in guardroom scenes showing soldiers relaxing off duty. Most such pictures were peaceful but in this painting violence has broken out. An argument among a group of soldiers over the distribution of booty has turned nasty and a fatal brawl has developed. Nevertheless, Duyster is intent on showing that this is not a visual report of a real incident but an imagined scene akin to theatre. The sumptuous costumes worn by the soldiers would have no place on the battlefield and the skirmish takes place as if on a stage. The viewer can enjoy the thrill of violence in complete safety while simultaneously relishing the display of luxury and painterly skill Duyster has laid out before them.

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