It was in 1625, ten years before this picture was painted, that Justin von Nassau, the commanding officer of Breda, surrendered the city to the Genoese Ambrosio Spinola, commander of the Spanish forces. Breda was one of the border fortresses of the Netherlands, a military base which had long been a bone of contention, alternately seized by the Spaniards or returned to the Princes of Orange.

After a long siege Spinola learned from an intercepted letter that the defendants were in desperate straits, short of both equipment and food, and he therefore proposed that von Nassau should freely surrender rather than continue the bloodshed. The proposal was accepted and the army withdrew in good order, keeping their goods and some of their arms. The citizens did not suffer any harm at all.

This victory was one of the last triumphs achieved by Spain in the period when she was accounted a great world power, and it was also one of the fine instances when humanism prevailed even in times of war.