Ships in a rough Sea

Wigerus Vitringa
Leeuwarden 1657 – 1725 Wirdum

 

Ships in Choppy Water

 

Oil on panel 22.2 x 28.2 cm

 

Signed with initials lower right on driftwood: “WV”

Provenance
With Hoogsteder, The Hague
Private collection, Europe, 1990s and then sold at the below sale
Sale London (Sotheby’s), 7 July 2016, lot 155, ill.
Private collection, Europe

On a rough sea near a coastline a kaag and smalschip sail towards a slender three-master with reefed sails, anchored in the middle zone. Towering cumulus clouds stretch up, almost filling the entire sky. Shafts of sunlight brightly illuminate a strip of water and the sails of various ships that are scattered across the watery expanse.

Possibly trained by the genre painter Richard Brakenburg (1650-1702), Wigerus Vitringa became one of the very few marine painters of his time active in the Dutch province of Friesland. Stylistically, he took his cue from the works of the celebrated Ludolf Bakhuizen (1630-1708) and during his Alkmaar period most probably painted on commission for him. Bakhuizen signed these marines with his own LB monogram and in later times they obviously caused confusion with collectors and scholars.

Vitringa painted all sorts of marines, from arctic views to Italianate harbours, and there even is a rare genre scene by his hand. Our small panel, however, is typical of the marines that Vitringa painted most often. It is a fine specimen of the distinct manner he developed inspired by Bakhuizen, one marked by a subtle tonal palette and a clear chiaroscuro. Here, the low horizon and tossing waves in the foreground lend a dramatic monumentality to the scene.

Vitringa was the son of Horatius, a prominent lawyer in Leeuwarden. In 1678 Wigerus himself obtained his doctorate in law and set up his own law firm at Leeuwarden. By that time he was already active as an artist as well. Vitringa worked in Leeuwarden for most of his life, but in around 1692 moved to Alkmaar where he joined the guild as late as 1696. Around 1708 he returned to Friesland, still painting a little and actively teaching. Later in life his eyesight deteriorated, causing him to paint less and less.