A Kaag Coming Ashore Near a Groyne with Ships and Vessels Under Sail Beyond

In this small painting, van de Velde portrays a sunny day on the Dutch coast. The distant landscape, visible on the left, may represent the island of Texel close to Den Helder, north of Amsterdam. A small kaag is being beached beside groynes or breakwater. She shows a starboard-bow view and her mainsail and foresails are lowered. A man is standing, in the water, by her mast with his back to the viewer and facing other sailors who are in the boat. The figure, on the right, is leaning over the side of the vessel holding a fender. The other figure, on board, is attending to the mast. On the right of the painting a man is dragging a roller which will be placed under the bow of the kaag to help move her up the beach. Another roller and a plank or rudder is shown in the right foreground. Kaags were a type of cargo vessel designed for use on inland waterways, with a straight stem, a sternpost and a wide angle between the keel and the stern. Often they were used as ferries or lighters on the Zuider Zee and conveyed cargo to and from seagoing ships. Just beyond her, to the right, another small kaag is being poled off the shore with her mainsail and foresail set on the port tack. Beyond these two vessels is a small ship flying the Dutch flag, with fore mainsails loosed, firing a salute to port. Behind the groyne, on the right, are the sails of several other ships. The largest ship is shown in port-bow view, with her sails loosed, including spritsail and a main topgallant. A large cumulus cloud dominates the composition to the left and there is land visible in the left background. The sun and the light breeze come from the left of the picture. The painting is suffused with light which creates a sense of calm and tranquillity. Light catches the tops of the clouds, the sails of the boats and the reflection of the nearest kaag in the water. The groyne has been used as a device to divide the painting with the kaags on the foreshore to its left and the larger boats in the distance on its right.

Robinson considered this picture to be an unusually freely painted early work by van de Velde. If the date has been read correctly then the painting was executed only a few years after van de Velde was working in Simon de Vlieger’s studio in the early 1650s. However the ‘round’ form of the signature may indicate a later date. Although Robinson points out that van de Velde has not signed this painting with an additional ‘J’ (for Jonge) which he adopted around 1678. The canvas has been cut on the left edge as well as along the top edge, suggesting that the composition may originally have been either square or horizontal. Whilst, the painting has been reduced in size, it would still have been smaller than most painted by van de Velde either at this time or, indeed, through the 1660s. Even though, the craft depicted are identified types, they do not provide the same focus as the vessels in van de Velde’s ‘parade’ paintings (as in BHC0910). The overall effect depends upon the play of sunlight on the sails, the water and the distant dunes which suggests the interests of a landscape painter rather than a ship painter. Van de Velde's debt to de Vlieger, which he shared with Jan van de Cappelle, is evident in the reflections in the water and the wet sand. Van de Velde returned to this kind of subject even when living in England, as can be seen in 'The Dutch Coast with a Weyschuit', possibly painted much later, around 1690.

Van de Velde 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. Increasingly he concentrated 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, as well as 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 present more frequently at significant maritime events. The painting is signed and dated 'W. V.Velde 1654' on the pole in the foreground.

Object Details

ID: BHC0896
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Velde, Willem van de, the Younger
Date made: 1654
Exhibition: Turmoil and Tranquillity
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Frame: 443 mm x 375 mm x 57 mm;Overall: 2.6 kg;Painting: 292 mm x 216 mm

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