Tsar Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) visited Europe on his 'Great Embassy' from 1697-1698 accompanied by an entourage of over two hundred people. The stated aim of the tour was to advance diplomatic relations but it was also to give Peter the Great the opportunity to study European developments in technology, particularly military science, shipbuilding and navigation. He arrived in Amsterdam on 25th August 1697 and the city celebrated with lavish festivities, including a grand review of shipping in the river and a mock battle on 1st September. 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 the opportunity to make sketches and record the occasion from which he subsequently produced several paintings of the mock battles and the surrounding events; another work from this group is held in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (BHCO704). The painting offered here shows Tsar Peter cruising the River Ij apparently in the boier which had been specifically built for him in Zaandam [a boier was a small, shallow-draft Dutch boat with a flat bottom and wide leeboards, primarily used for transporting freight in coastal waters plagued by sandbanks].
Abraham Storck was born in Amsterdam in 1644 and was the youngest son of the painter Jan Jansz Storck, also known as Storckenburch. He is known for his depictions of sea battles, seascapes, townscapes, river and harbour scenes and whaling expeditions. A number of his works, such as this one, represent ceremonial gatherings of ships and demonstrate