Oil paintings, Fine art, A Sea of Symbols, Maritime Art Greenwich

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A Dutch Ship Running onto a Rocky Coast

Oil paintings

Object details:

Object ID BHC0796
Description A Dutch trading ship, flying the Dutch flag, is being carried by bleak and tenebrous waters which force it towards dark, foreboding cliffs. Foamy waves, composed diagonally across the surface of the painting, haul the ship closer towards the rocks, where they erupt and break. The sea gives way to dark brown boulders that rise from the water and tower over the vessel which, by contrast, appears small and insubstantial. Smaller still are the sailors seen aboard the ship: one of them urgently climbs the rigging to attend to the sails, hoping to save the ship from being wrecked. The dramatic effect of the incident is emphasized since this figure is highlighted against the darkness of the menacing sea. This creates a sense of foreboding and menace, heightened by the blackness of the sky. A dark and treacherous coastline rises up in the distance. A faintly sketched vessel is visible in the background and is, also, struggling amidst the waves and approaching the hazardous rocks. This underlines the ever-present threat posed to shipping by jagged rocks which emerge from the sea. While the ship, in this painting, is Dutch, its environs appear distinctly Mediterranean. The sheer, jagged rocks bear no resemblance to the unbroken flat coasts of the Low Countries. Like his master, Andries van Eertvelt, van Plattenberg had left the Netherlands for Italy shortly before 1630. The work of both artists reflects an enduring interest in the depiction of the Dutch in foreign waters and on foreign shores. Van Plattenberg’s flamboyant colour and his marked use of dramatic chiaroscuro is, also, testament to the influence of Italian painters. In this regard, he may be considered as a significant precursor to Pieter Mulier the Younger (known as Pietro Tempesta), whose paintings reflect an engagement with the Mediterranean landscape. Tempesta aimed to interpret both land and sea as intense and luminous, as in 'A Fresh Breeze in the Mediterranean' (BHC0862). Here, van Plattenberg’s depiction of the stormy Mediterranean sea is tinged with a golden-yellow light. While specific elements, including the sails of the ship and the foam of the waves, are prominently highlighted. Biographical information about the marine artist Matthieu van Plattenberg remains elusive. Born in Antwerp in between 1607 and 1608, he is likely to have been a pupil of Andries van Eertvelt with whom he left the Netherlands to work in Italy. Later, he worked in Paris, purportedly as a sea painter and copper engraver as well as a designer of embroidery patterns. The majority of the artist's known works were executed in Paris, where he remained from 1630, tutored by Jacques Fouquier. While in Paris, Plattenburg specialized in depictions of vividly coloured storms with turbulent, foaming seas. At this time, he began to refer to himself as Matthieu Platte-Montaigne or Platte-Montagne. Van Plattenberg was elected a founder member of the French Academy in 1648 and remained a member until his death in 1660. His accomplishments were recognised when he was honoured with the title of ‘Peintre du Roy Pour les Mers’. Van Plattenberg seldom signed or dated his works. However, the choice of subject matter and the secure handling of colour suggest that this example was painted some time after he left the Netherlands and it may be dated to the late 1640s.
Date made Late 1640s

Artist/Maker Plattenberg, Matthieu van
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Palmer Collection. Acquired with the assistance of H.M. Treasury, the Caird Fund, the Art Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund.
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 585 mm x 927 mm; Frame: 730 mm x 1068 mm x 40 mm
  • A Dutch Ship Running onto a Rocky Coast (BHC0796)
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