Review of Dutch Yachts Before Peter the Great

An interpretation of the visit to Amsterdam in 1697 by Tsar Peter the Great, 1672-1725, during his Great Embassy. When Peter arrived in Amsterdam on 25 August the city celebrated with fireworks, festivities and the maritime display, in the form of a mock battle, on 1 September, which is depicted here. Peter appeared in full regalia as the Tsar of Moscovy to watch the 41 ships that took part. He is shown standing in the yacht on the left, surveying the event, which attracted huge crowds. A trumpeter is also shown on board playing a fanfare. The picture shows numerous vessels at the height of the battle. The Commander-in- Chief, Gillis Schey, sailed on the East India Company yacht shown in the centre of the painting, flying the East India Company flag.

In the foreground are a number of small boats carrying people out to take a closer look at the Tsar and view the spectacle unfolding around them. The scene was graphically described in a contemporary print by Caspar Luyken. Abraham Storck probably made several paintings of the mock battle soon afterwards. A contemporary account states that Peter was so delighted with the whole performance that at his request it was repeated several weeks later. This provided Storck with another opportunity to make sketches and record the event. His composition was copied by other artists, including I. de Beer.

Storck had trained and worked with his father and became a member of the Guild of St Luke in Amsterdam. His river and coastal scenes were influenced by Ludolf Backhuysen, Willem van de Velde the younger and Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten. He showed considerable accuracy in depicting ships' rigging and technical details, and his Dutch harbour and river views often depict the recreational and ceremonial aspects of shipping. In particular he concentrated on showing pleasure yachts and ceremonial gatherings of ships. He also concentrated on depictions of both spectators and passengers. In such work he showed great skill depicting the human figure, through characterization and attention to costume and detail.

Object Details

ID: BHC0926
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Storck, Abraham
Date made: 1697
People: Tsar Peter I of Russia
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Macpherson Collection
Measurements: Painting: 406 mm x 584 mm; Frame: 510 mm x 697 mm x 55 mm

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