The Museo del Prado in Madrid retains the original painting, alongside a fine collection of other Velazquez artwork. This huge oil on canvas measures 367cm by 307cm. This scale alone explains why it took Velazquez so long to complete it, having commenced it the year before in 1634.
Spanish general, Genoese Ambrogio Spinola was to lead a brave attack on the heavily defended city of Breda, despite being warned off the idea by his superiors. He went directly against orders to take on a new strategy of circling the whole Republic and defeating them through the drought of commerce opportunities.
The critical nature of this painting to Velazquez is underlined by the sheer amount of preparatory work that he completed in order to achieve the best possible result. Very few original drawings from his career still remain, yet there are several for this painting alone that still exist today. As a point of reference, this is more than even his masterpiece, Las Meninas.
Study for The Surrender of Breda and Study for the figure of General Spinola in The Surrender of Breda both display his experimentation with the figures of the composition, amending their poses as he went. Anatomical studies are notoriously difficult to master, with even the finest draughtsman required endless practice in order to get on top of this complex genre.
Battle scenes became common throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods where the instability of the Europe provided powerful inspiration to artists right across the continent. Rubens, for example, would draw attention to The Thirty Year War in Consequences of War which was to depict the negative aspects of any losing campaign.
Another world famous Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso would continue this theme with his 20th century masterpiece, Guernica, that captured the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Earlier in the 19th century, and in a style more similar to that of the early Baroque painters, was Francisco de Goya with the likes of Second of May 1808 and Third of May 1808.