All of Troost’s dated guardroom scenes were executed in the 1740s, and the revival of interest in the subject at this time was most likely a reflection of the political situation of the day, which was dominated by the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). Following the death of the German emperor Charles VI in 1740, the various nations of Europe supported different successors to the throne: England, the Dutch Republic and Russia were in favour of Charles’ daughter, Maria Theresa, but France, Prussia, Spain and Bavaria united against her. Several years of war resulted, and on 11 May 1745, French troops invaded the Southern Netherlands. Willem IV, Prince of Orange, united the Dutch provinces in opposition to the French, and in this guardroom we see his crowned coat of arms on the wall behind, along with that of the United Provinces, a clear statement of the twin loyalties of the guardsman below.
The compositional elements to be found in all of Troost’s guardroom scenes are fairly similar, but one example, dated 1748, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. 1953:226) is particularly close to the present work, except that it shows the guardroom in daytime, rather than at night. Otherwise, the differences are limited to details such as the fireplace, the figures seated in front of it, and the absence of the dog in the foreground. The Rijksmuseum’s gouache is, however, among the best known of Troost’s guardroom scenes, thanks to the near-contemporary engraving after it, made my Jan Punt and Pieter Tanjé. Another notable version of the theme is the large, and compositionally more elaborate, oil painting of 1747, now in the Mauritshuis, The Hague.
Combining with great skill Troost’s twin talents for the depiction of guardrooms, and for dramatic nocturnal compositions, this exceptional gouache complements perfectly the narrative and humorous sides of the artist’s multifaceted talents that are more evident in the two other major works by Troost in this collection.
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