Study of a Ship
Study of a Ship

Study of a Ship

Willem van de Velde the Younger
Leiden 1633 – 1707 London

 

Study of a Ship

 

Black chalk and grey washings on paper 187 x 245 mm
Framing lines in black chalk

 

Datable 1670s or later

Provenance
Collection John MacGowan (?-1803), Edinburgh (Lugt 1496; his mark lower centre on
recto)
Collection Cornelius ver Heyden de Lancey (1889-1984), Londen en Jersey (Lugt
2701a; his mark upper left on recto)
Collection E. Brouwer
Private collection, Switzerland

Description

An elegant threemaster, seen on her starboard, is sailing in a mild breeze. Sunlight
emanates from the upper left illuminating the ship’s stern and leaving the hull in
shadow, indicated with delicate hatching. The beholder sees the vessel from a small
distance and from a low viewpoint, as if sitting in a sloop.

Arguably, father and son Van de Velde were the most prolific draughtsmen of the Dutch
Golden Age. Drawing to them was as natural as breathing and Pliny’s well-known
motto ‘nulla dies sine linea’ (not a day without a line) applies to them in a literal sense.
Van de Velde the Younger’s productivity can be explained by his singular talent of
conjuring a truthful scene on the beach or at sea with just a few lines of his pencil or a
dash or two with his brush. This drawing is another superb example. The subject, this
time, is a single ship; a merchantman or man-of-war. Although the drawing is a rapid
sketch, it still contains a wealth of detail. Drawings such as the present were made as
preparation for paintings.

Willem van de Velde the Younger and his father and teacher Willem van de Velde the
Elder are the most famous marine artists of the seventeenth century. Their depictions of
shipping are artistic highpoints while many of these scenes represent events of massive importance such as episodes of heroic sea-battles and consequently have shaped the
historical image of the Dutch Golden Age as well. Whereas Willem van de Velde the
Younger is primarily known as a painter, both father and son produced a vast body of
drawings. The greatest holding of van de Velde drawings is nowadays in the National
Maritime Museum, Greenwich, while the second largest public collection is kept in the
Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.

Shortly after Willem’s birth the family moved to Amsterdam. He initially trained with
his father but was sent off to Weesp around 1648 to finish his education with Simon de
Vlieger. In 1652 he was back in Amsterdam and married Petronella le Maine but
divorced her only one year later. In 1666 he married his second wife Magdalena
Walraven. By the closing of 1672 Willem and his father had left for England for good,
settling in Greenwich, in the outskirts of London. At first they primarily worked for
King Charles II, who provided them with lodgings in Greenwich and allowed them to
use the Queen’s House as their studio, a handsome building designed by Inigo Jones
and presently part of the Maritime Museum which houses so many outstanding works
by the Van de Veldes. In 1674 a royal warrant stipulated that both artists were to receive
an annual pension of one hundred Pounds while to were also to receive payment for
every painting individually. From the outset, the Van de Veldes also worked for the
king’s brother, the future James II, who continued patronizing them after his brother’s
death in 1685. In 1691 the Van de Veldes settled in Westminster, London, where they
remained until their deaths. They are buried alongside each other in the church of St
James, Piccadilly. Willem the Younger had two sons, Willem III and Cornelis, who also
became marine painters and continued to work in their father’s style. Van de Velde also
had some English followers. Namely Peter Monamy and Robert Woodstock, who
further contributed to Van de Velde’s fame by producing versions and imitations of the
master.