The Wallace Collection

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The Duke of Alva in the Netherlands
  • Louis (-Joseph) Gallait (1810 - 1887)
  • The Duke of Alva in the Netherlands
  • France
  • 1835
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 100 x 81.5 cm
    Object size: 138 x 116.5 x 16.5 cm
  • Signature: 'Louis Gallait / 1835'
  • P308
  • West Gallery III
Further Reading
  • This painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1835. The seated figure in armour is Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva (1508-83). In 1567 Philip II of Spain sent him to the Spanish Netherlands with orders to extirpate opposition to Spanish rule. The brutality with which he carried out his task, particularly against Protestants, is notorious. In Gallait’s painting Alva, supported by Dominican friars, watches while his henchman, Juan Vargas swears an oath to establish a tribunal, the Council of Troubles, which was the instrument of Alva’s policy. Known in the Netherlands as the Council of Blood, it was established in September 1567 (and abolished in 1576). The 1835 Salon catalogue recorded Vargas’s pledge to Alva: ‘If the woman who bore me betrayed the Catholic faith, I would begin the execution of your orders with her’. The subject had particular significance for Gallait as a Belgian, but scenes of Catholic intolerance were frequently depicted in French paintings of the nineteenth century when anti-clericalism was still a powerful force in French politics.