This picture shows the culminative moment of Louis XIV’s 1672 siege of the city of Utrecht. The king, shown on a white charger, stands before the distant city while the burghers, dressed in black, approach to present him the keys of Utrecht in a bid to prevent a full military assault on the town. The picture bears a number of striking similarities to a further two paintings by Lambert de Hondt II, depicting other significant moments of the Franco-Dutch war (1672-1678): The Siege of Rijnberg, 6 June 1672 and Louis XIV with his troops at the Siege of Schenkenschanz, 18 June 1672 (both now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The early provenance of the Rijksmuseum pictures is not known before their sale at Christie’s in October 1974, but their scale, style and subject are very close to the present Surrender of Utrecht. Though neither possess the gilded cartouche at the lower centre of the present picture, both are similarly inscribed with the name of the battle, and it is tempting to suggest that they originally formed a series, documenting momentous French victories during the war.
According to a label on the reverse, the picture once formed a part of the collection of Eugenie de Montijo, Empress consort of the French, at the Tuileries Palace and later, after the fall of the Second Empire, at her exiled home at Farnborough in Hampshire. The Empress was an important patron of the arts both in her public and private capacities. She became a leading buyer, often on behalf of the State, at the annual Salon exhibitions, supporting and encouraging contemporary painters, a practice she continued to pursue for her own private collection. Aside from numerous works by Salon painters of the 1850s and ‘60s, Eugenie’s personal art collection also included a number of Old Master pictures, including a large and significant group of seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish paintings, mainly comprising of landscapes and genre scenes. It is not known when exactly the present picture, then attributed to David Teniers the Younger, entered the imperial collections or where in the Tuileries it was displayed. However, given its relatively small scale and the Empress’ affection for Flemish pictures, it is possible that it would have hung in her private apartments and certainly would not have seemed out of place in the richly furnished interiors of her study and private drawing room recorded in watercolour by Giuseppe Castiglione in 1861. The fall of the Second Empire in 1870 forced the empress into exile in England. In the following decades, Eugenie tirelessly petitioned for the restitution of the imperial family’s domain privé (private property) which had largely remained in France. This painting appears to have been amongst the properties returned to Eugenie and remained at Farnborough until its posthumous sale in 1927.
Dr. Margret Klinge has confirmed the attribution on the basis of photographs.
Eugénie de Montijo, Empress Consort of the French (1826-1920), at the Palais des Tuileries, Paris (according to a label on the stretcher) and Farnborough Hill, Hampshire; Christie's, London, 1 July 1927, lot 89, as 'D. Teniers' (480 gns. to Knoedler);
With A. Seligmann, New York, 1941;
Anonymous sale; Christie's, Paris, 14 December 2004, lot 206.
Figaro Artistique, 10 November 1927 (an account of the London sale of the collections of Empress Eugénie), as 'Teniers'.