In an elegant hand this manuscript informs us on its last page: ‘Opus perfectum per Adrianum Conflans. Pictor. 20a. februarij ao. 1594’. However, the opening page, as shown here on the opposite page, has the date 1593. The explanation of it is found in the introduction: the painter had intended to give Prince Maurice his fortification models in 1593, but had been unable to do so, due to an unfortunate fall.
Maurice, the stadholder of Holland and Zeeland, and the Frisian stadholder William Louis, ensured safe borders for the territory of the young Republic of the United Provinces by systematically conquering the fortified towns from which Parma tried to subject these provinces. 1593 was a very successful year for Maurice: he had besieged the Spanish stronghold of Geertruidenberg at the request of the States of Zeeland, and conquered it on 25 June. Geertruidenberg is the town which Conflans has represented in an allegorical cartouche on the first page of his collection. At the top we see ‘Fama’ trumpeting forth praises of Maurice's success, accompanied by the virtues ‘Prudentsia’ and ‘Justitia’ to the left on the ornamental border and by ‘Fortitudo’ and "Temperantsia'' to the right. The bottom of the frame is elaborately decorated with symbols of war (left) and peace (right). In the centre foreground a young, lustily sprouting orange tree symbolizes Maurice's motto: ‘Tandem fit surculus arbor’ (At last the sprig becomes a tree). Underneath this successful drawing Conflans has expressed his intentions in less fortunate verse.
The manuscript, which the painter will indeed have presented to Prince Maurice - it was part of the seventeenth-century Orange-Nassau library - contains 21 drawn models for fortifications, with explanations. According to the fortification expert Van den Heuvel Conflans must have based these theoretical fortifications on work by Francesco De Marchi. He may have had access to it through prints of this Bolognan architect that had been pirated in Antwerp. In the captions of his drawings Conflans repeatedly observes that in our ‘watery regions’ earth and branches make very good material to build the walls of fortifications. As was customary with works of this kind the author ends his dedication by offering ‘to make models of some of these bulwarks from clay (...) or from stiff paper’.
Eenentwintich verscheyden manieren van fortificatie. Adriaan van Conflans. S.l., 1593-1594. Paper, 44 leaves, 340 x 470 mm. Gold-tooled vellum binding with the year 1594. - 128 A 27, fol. 1r