Entrefenêtre: Ships Engaged in Action
Tapestry from a series depicting the Battle of Solebay, May 28, 1672

After Willem van de Velde I, Dutch, 1611 - 1693. Manufactured by Thomas Poyntz, and Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory, London, 1619 - 1649.

Made in England, Europe

c. 1688

Wool and silk

Height: 10 feet 10 5/16 inches (331cm) Width: 4 feet 13/16 inches (124 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of G. Burford Lorimer, 1942

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Ships Engaged in Action illustrates a scene during the Battle of Solebay, which was the opening battle of the Third Ango-Dutch War (1672-74). In the foreground the English squadron is shown engaging with the Dutch fleet, whose flags are visible peaking out of the smoke in the middle ground.

This tapestry was commissioned by James II as one of a set of five tapestries depicting the Battle of Solebay for George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth (c.1647-1691), who was a personal friend of James II and served as captain of the Fairfax during the battle of Solebay. Before the king could receive them, however, he was deposed due to the Revolution of 1688, which was the invasion of England by William of Orange with a Dutch fleet and army. Also called the Glorious Revolution, the invasion resulted in the overthrow of King James II and ascension of William to the throne together with his wife Mary II of England.

Ships Engaged in Action was woven to a design by William Van de Velde the Elder, who was present at the battle and made drawings from the Dutch side in his galliot, which is a type of ship with both masts and oars. This panel is part of the third set of tapestries depicting the Battle of Solebay.

Also in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection are the first and third panels in the Solebay series, The Dutch Fleet Appearing at Dawn (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1942-89-1) and The Burning of the Royal James (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1942-89-2), both of which display the signature of Thomas Poyntz and bear the coat of arms of Lord Dartmouth; all three panels bear the coat of arms of the King of England.

The term entrefenêtre is derived from fenêtre, the French word for window. The direct translation is between a window or opening, which is where narrow tapestries like this one hung.