Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich

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A States Yacht in a Fresh Breeze Running Towards a Group of Dutch Ships

BHC0903
Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleProvenance: Sotheby's, Sotheby's
Provenance: Okeover family
Provenance: Spink & Son Ltd
Provenance: Vicars
Provenance: Christie's
Provenance: Eckstein, Bernard

Object details:

Object ID BHC0903
Description A large group of Dutch ships are shown gathered under a stormy sky. This may record the assembling of some of the Dutch fleet off the Texel in 1672, the year that the artist and his father came to England to work. Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter put to sea in late April or early May and Cornelis de Witt, the Ruwaard of Putten, joined de Ruyter's ship as the States-General's representative with the fleet. To the left, in port-quarter view, is a fishing pink with a six people on board and her square mainsail lowered. She flies a distinctive pendant at the masthead with red and yellow stripes, which may indicate the region of Vlieland and Terschelling. The prominence given to this pink with the unusual pendant may imply that it was being used to mark a shipping channel. De Ruyter was forced to order such boats to carry out this role because all the normal buoys and marks had been removed to form a hindrance to the English in case of invasion. A bezan yacht can be seen beyond the pink and there is other shipping on the horizon on the left. A man-of-war, shown starboard broadside and flying the Dutch flag, is firing a salute. In the right foreground is a sprit-rigged States yacht, in starboard-quarter view, which is probably the yacht of the States-General. Her foresail is lowered and she has a white ensign bearing a shield with the lion of the United Netherlands. This distinctive motif is repeated on the flag at the masthead, the longer-shaped flag at the peak and on the pendants. On her stern there is a shield bearing the lion of the Holland surrounded by arms and trophies, with naked figures on either side. Below the shield in a ribbon is the motto 'Vigilante Deo Confidentes', 'trusting in a vigilant God', inscribed in gold. The yacht is bathed in light and the brilliance of the sails forms a dramatic contrast to the grey clouds. There are figures on the deck attending to the foresail and a ship's barge lies alongside her port quarter. There are several sailors on board gesturing towards the yacht and a sailor in red is shown holding on to its side. The barge has two crests visible in the stern. The States yacht is shown sailing towards de Ruyter's flagship the 'Zeven Provincien', 80 guns. This large ship is identifiable by the flag and pendant at the main and the arms with lion supporters on the stern. She is taking in sail and her fore and main topsails are lowered, with men on the yards furling her sails. Another States yacht is shown lying alongside to starboard. A principal States yacht, in port-bow view, is passing the 'Zeven Provincien' and both ship and yacht are shown firing guns in salute. The latter has a pendant over the ensign signifying an admiralty yacht. Astern of the 'Zeven Provincien' are two large ships under sail before the wind. The second one has a flag at the fore and pendant at the main, which signifies a flagship of a vice-admiral of the centre squadron, possibly the 'Maagd van Dordrecht'. There are a number of other ships in the distance. The artist was the younger son of Willem van de Velde the Elder. Born in Leiden, he studied under Simon de Vlieger in Weesp and in 1652 moved back to Amsterdam. He worked in his father's studio and developed the skill of carefully drawing ships in tranquil settings. He changed his subject matter, however, when he came with his father to England in 1672-73, by a greater concentration on royal yachts, men-of-war and storm scenes. From this time painting sea battles for Charles II and his brother (and Lord High Admiral) James, Duke of York, and other patrons, became a priority. Unlike his father's works, however, they were not usually eyewitness accounts. After his father's death in 1693 his continuing role as an official marine painter obliged him to be more frequently present at significant maritime events. This painting may be the earliest of several versions of this subject by the artist. It is signed, lower right, 'W.V.Velde'.
Date made 1673

Artist/Maker Velde, Willem van de
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 800 x 1115 mm; Frame: 1007 x 1325 x 110 mm
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