Oil paintings, Fine art, Nature and National Waters, Maritime Art Greenwich

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Sunlight on a Stormy Sea

Oil paintings

Object details:

Object ID BHC0804
Description A ship is running before the wind, in port-broadside view, in a rough sea. She sails under fore-course and lateen mizzen, with figures visible on the deck and the main yard sent down to the gunwale. The vessel is almost engulfed by the turbulent, undulating waves. The painting is broadly treated in the Dutch realist style. While the grey palette evokes an impression of a storm. However both the ship and a bold stretch of water around it are illuminated fiercely by the rays of the sun which fall onto the surface of the sea from the right, the same direction as the wind. In the distance, on the left, the soft outline of another wallowing ship is visible. In the left foreground, a wooden spar floats above the churning water. While, on the right, two dolphins plough through the sea towards a barely concealed rock. The absence of any visible land, the rolling sky and murky water contribute towards the impression of turmoil and the powerlessness of the ships. Their powerlessness contrasts with the potency of the natural elements. This work may have been the painting lent by Sir Bruce Ingram as ‘Jan Porcellis’ to an exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1952–3. That work, titled ‘A Stormy Sea’, was apparently catalogued incorrectly as bearing a date of 1631 which is not visible in the present work. At an unknown later date, the painting was reattributed by Eric Palmer to Julius Porcellis and, as such, entered the Museum’s collection. An attribution to Bonaventura Peeters is much more tenable, especially if one compares it to Peeters’ ‘Dutch Ferry Boats in a Fresh Breeze’ (BHC0760). Both paintings share a brisk painterly style, a prominent contrast between light and dark and a robustly linear representation of sunlight falling through the sky. This last trait is evident in Peeters’ depiction of ‘The Great Flood’, with Noah’s Ark atop Mount Ararat, in which rays of sunlight appear as thick, angular blocks of colour. The portrayal of 'The Great Flood', also, includes an energetic depiction of a rainbow which reinforces the link with other works by Peeters (see BHC0759). Thus it is probable that the present picture, like BHC0759 and BHC0760, was produced some time in the early 1640s. The broad, flat brushstrokes of the painting are coupled with a disregard for precision. This suggests that the work may not be a finished work but perhaps a modello or a study which anticipates a much larger and more complete piece. Born in Antwerp into a prominent artistic family, Bonaventura Peeters the Elder was the brother of artists Gillis, Jan and Clara Peeters and the uncle of Bonaventura Peeters the Younger. Comparatively little is known about his early life, although, the intimate and accurate knowledge of ships evinced in his many marine paintings hint at an early life spent at sea. De Bie commended Peeters on his delicate and convincing treatment of seas, calms and tempests. While Houbraken succinctly described the artist as a proficient and naturalistic master of ‘air, water, rocks and beaches.’ Peeters produced some of the finest marine paintings of the Flemish school. In 1634, Peeters joined the Antwerp Guild of St Luke and continued to live and work in the city until the early 1640s. He died in 1652. The painting is thought to be inscribed 'BP' on the spar of wood lower left foreground.
Date made Early 1640s

Artist/Maker Peeters, Bonaventura
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Frame: 290 mm x 358 mm x 60 mm;Painting: 177 x 241 mm
  • Sunlight on a Stormy Sea (BHC0804)
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