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'The Mary', Yacht, Arriving with Princess Mary at Gravesend in a Fresh Breeze, 12 February 1689

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Queen Mary II
VesselsMary (1677)

Object details:

Object ID BHC0328
Description After Prince William of Orange landed in Torbay in November 1688, during the 'Glorious Revolution' which deposed his father-in-law, the Catholic King James II, James fled the country. Within three months William was sufficiently established in England for his wife, James's daughter Princess Mary, to come over from Briel to join him. Landing at Gravesend, she then travelled by coach to Greenwich to be received by her sister Anne and brother-in-law Prince George of Denmark. The painting shows the scene viewed from the middle of Gravesend Reach looking upstream to the west and to Northfleet. The tower of Gravesend church is visible in the extreme left background with Tilbury in the distance. On the left there are two Dutch smack-rigged flutes, anchored lashed together, which were used as transports. Beyond them and to the right an English yacht at anchor is saluting with the masts of other Dutch transports visible beyond. Closer another royal yacht, in port-bow view, is coming up into the wind and preparing to drop anchor. Around her and in the foreground are a number of wherries and three official barges rowing up-stream after the 'Mary', yacht, with the princess aboard, which is just about to anchor and is taking in her sails. She is seen starboard-broadside view and, importantly, Princess Mary is shown in the stern, thus forming the central point of the painting. The yacht proclaims her significance with the red ensign at the stern and the Union jack flying on her bowsprit. At her masthead is the white standard of the 1688 revolution, on which is inscribed 'For the Protestant Religion and the Liberty of England'. Beyond the 'Mary' to the right and beneath her bowsprit are small boats, one under sail, with two rowing boats nearer the viewer pulling downstream. The crowded shipping includes three other English Royal yachts and over a dozen Dutch vessels of which some are firing salutes. 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. There he worked in his father's studio and developed the skill of carefully drawing and painting ships in tranquil settings. He changed his subject matter, however, when he came with his father to England in 1672, by working on views of royal yachts, men-of-war and on storm scenes. From 1672 the depiction of sea battles from the English side became a priority but unlike his father's they were not usually eyewitness accounts. However, from early 1674 both the van de Veldes were expressly patronized by Charles II for this purpose, the father to draw sea fights and the son - who was by far the more accomplished painter - 'for putting the said Draughts into Colours'. After his father's death in 1693 he was officially engaged to be present at and record significant maritime events. He continued to run a substantial and influential studio until his own death and with his father, especially as a painter, he is regarded as founder of the English school of marine painting. The painting is signed 'W.V.Velde J'.
Date made circa 1689

Artist/Maker Velde, Willem van de
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 774 x 1732 mm; Frame: 957 mm x 1670 mm x 20 mm
  • 'The Mary', Yacht, Arriving with Princess Mary at Gravesend in a Fresh Breeze, 12 February 1689 (BHC0328)
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