Between 1568 and 1648, the United Provinces of the Netherlands waged a protracted struggle for independence against Habsburg Spain. The scope and intensity of the conflict, which coincided with the introduction of firearms in Europe, required imposing order upon often chaotic mercenary forces and transforming them into a professional military service. Johann VII, Count of Nassau-Siegen, developed a series of drills to help train infantry and cavalry in the handling of weapons over the course of the 1590s. These exercises were illustrated by Jacob de Gheyn II, first in drawings like this one, and later in prints that provided inexperienced military men with a comprehensive visual reference manual.
Jacob de Gheyn II (1565–1629), Trayle Your Pike, ca. 1590–1600. Pen and brown ink and wash, brown-ink framing lines, on paper, 10 9/16 x 6 15/16 inches (268 x 177 mm). Promised gift of the Baymeath Art Trust.