Public Art and the Peace of Utrecht

The Agreement
Continuing the theme of giant public works of art, which I started with my post about the giant teapot, I figured I should finally post about The Agreement. This 200-square-meter tableau hangs on the facade of the Stadhuis, the site where the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713. It commemorates the event that brought an end to the War of Spanish Succession 300 years ago.

As part of the city-wide celebration taking place this year, this photographic mural was commissioned from an English photographer, Red Saunders. The final image is a combination of a series of photographs that have been morphed into one. Many of the people in the picture are volunteers. There was a request late last year for people who were interested in taking part. I briefly considered volunteering, but my lack of photogenic qualities deterred me.

The Agreement

The negotiations for the treaty (actually a series of treaties) took 18 months and involved multiple countries and various groups, including diplomats, negotiators, aristocrats, Calvinist bureaucrats, militaries, and civil servants. Not surprisingly, all of these various retinues were an economic boon for Utrecht, from bakers to prostitutes.

All of these groups and more are depicted in The Agreement, as well as a few visual nods to the Dutch Golden Age of art, trade, and commerce. There are ships, still life groupings, saints, and doves of peace to be found throughout the image.

The Agreement

The Agreement is a great blend of history and humor. As well as the bawdy figures on the left, there is a curious masked figure on the bottom right. It seems that he’s a depiction of the inevitable spies who were involved in the drawn-out peace process. For a more extensive explanation of the various groupings and symbols, there’s a tagged description written by the photographer, which can be found here (in English). The following are a few photos that show a bit more detail.

The Agreement

The Agreement

The Agreement

Finally, I recommend watching this relatively short video about the making of the picture. I had seen some of the video before the picture was revealed, and I found it fascinating to see how all the separate groupings were able to come together into one striking image.

The Agreement will hang on the Stadhuis through 21 September 2013.

8 thoughts on “Public Art and the Peace of Utrecht

  1. First, you are beyond photogenic, you silly goose!! Second, what an amazing, astonishing and stunning tableau. It’s brilliant! So well done and impressive. Lastly, I had a chuckle at your bit about how the 18-month long treaty negotiations were a economic boon to prostitutes. *grin* It’s undoubtedly true, but it’s also not something one thinks about normally. Hilarious.

    • It really was well done, wasn’t it. As for the prostitutes, I got the idea from an official video made by the city about the history of the event. They made a vague reference to various forms of entertainment and business, including the prostitutes. 😉

  2. I love this project, didn’t know they photographed several smaller groups to create the one big tableau. When I walk passt it I always pause a little to look at all the detail. It’s a fun and creative way to honour a historical moment (or moments)!

    • It really was cool to see how they were able to take all the different individual photos and turn it into one — real — looking image. There are so many great small bits and even the looks on the faces of the individuals. It really was well done. I’m glad they did this.

  3. Pingback: The Agreement’s In The Bag | A Flamingo in Utrecht

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