- Museum number
Object: Vertrek van H. H. Mevrouwe de Princesse van Oranje na Engeland
Object: Depart de S.A. Madame la Princesse d'Orange pour se transporter en Angleterre
Object: Departure of her R. H. My Lady Princess of Orange for to go in England
After departing from Briel in the background, the Princess of Orange lettered 'A' in bottom right is shown boarding a ship to take her to England, many other ships form a convoy for her departure, letterpress in Dutch, French and English along bottom
Etching and engraving
- Production date
Height: 358 millimetres
Height: 520 millimetres
Width: 561 millimetres (image)
Width: 561 millimetres (sheet)
- Curator's comments
- The following derives from Mark McDonald 'The British Museum Magazine', no.65, pp.36-37.
In the seventeenth century printmakers assiduously documented the natural world, the built environment, encounters through travel with foreign cultures and important contemporary events. As a result, the efficacy of the printed image as a means of communication reached an unprecedented level that penetrated all sectors of society. Print publishing was a highly organised and competitive industry engaging the services of many professionals in every major city across Europe.
A print recently purchased by the Museum is a fine example of a detailed representation of a noteworthy event and adds to our collection of prints of historical subjects. It shows the departure of Mary II (Princess of Orange) from Briel to England on the 20 February 1689, a journey that took two days. The printmaker was Johannes van de Avelen and the print was published in Leiden by Joahnnes Tangena. Along the bottom are three sections of text; Dutch at left, French in the centre and English on the right describing the context leading up to and including the Princesses’ departure.
Mary married William, Prince of Orange in London in 1677 after which she went to live in the Netherlands as his consort and remained there for 11 years. After the Revolution of 1688 resulting in the deposition and exile to France of her father James II in early 1689, the princess returned to England where she reigned with her husband as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland until her death in 1694. Mary is known to have been distressed by what some of her peers regarded as her lack of loyalty to her father, but this was more a façade required through her allegiance with her husband.
In van de Avelen’s print each element of her departure is painstakingly shown. The town of Briel from where the Princess set off can be seen in the background. Identified by the letter ‘A’, the Princess in the foreground at right ‘taking leave of some considerable members for the deputies of the states’ boards the ship to carry her to England accompanied by canon fire and the ‘shoutings of innumerable crowd of people’. On the ship those present express their joy by throwing their hats in the air. The general tone is one of jubilation and the significance of the occasion is reinforced by the convoy of ships that accompany her.
This type of print is a broadsheet and a commemorative image. Such prints were not necessarily meant to be kept and collected, though some evidently were. This contrasts with another prominent category of print made during the seventeenth century, that of the artists’ print, produced specifically to be collected because of their subject and production values. Often broadsheets did not survive because after the event they represented passed, their relevance diminished. It is also very unusual to find a print with the letterpress still attached like this impression. Broadly, the few individuals who collected broadsheets like the famous Cassiano dal Pozzo (d.1657) separated the text from the image. The descriptions were often printed separately sometimes in book form. The three languages along the bottom of this print indicate the publishers desire to appeal to different audiences.
It is not an overstatement that in the seventeenth century European audiences were wholly absorbed with ceremony that had developed into ritualised forms expressive of power and status. Ceremonies and processions associated with canonisation or burial, royal and noble departures and arrivals were of great interest to the population at large. They were lavish events costing vast amounts of money to achieve a clear outcome; to maintain a high level of interest in the protagonists and to reinforce their personal and often political power. Numerous written accounts describe a whole city turning out to witness such events, some travelling from afar, which is similar to the ceremony surrounding the swearing in of a president or a royal visit today. But seeing is not always believing. Printed images were the most potent medium for disseminating a readable representation of what occurred, providing a visual record for those who witnessed the event and also for those not able to attend. Readability often took precedence over verisimilitude and whereas it seems the basic information relating to such events was broadly accurate it was stylised to have maximum visual impact. In this print the departure is presented like a cinematic frame, the thick black artificial border terminates the extremes of the composition but suggests a wider view. The diminutive princess in the foreground is the point of focus amidst the great activity around her.
There was a long tradition of prints depicting naval subjects including royal departures and battles. An early example from the Museum’s collection is the unique 1499 coloured woodcut of the Battle of Zonchio (see BM 1932,0709.1). In this print the Ottomans and the Venetians are shown in fierce combat. The Ottomans were victorious, their leader Kemal Ali is seen standing on the deck of his ship. The differences between the print of Zonchio and the departure of the Princess are revealing. The former is a highly stylised representation that shows the battle as a readable matrix that has little to do with reality. Printed in Venice, it was meant to convey the context of a distant battle. The 1689 print relies on a carefully resolved composition with clearly labelled details and text to relate its story. The printmakers name is even inscribed on the side of the ship near the princess. Its placement was not doubt intentional so that it could be read in close proximity to her as the most important person, maybe as a mechanism to draw attention to the fact that he designed and engraved the print so well and that if one wanted more with this level of quality, he was the person to go to.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number