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Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London)
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Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London)

A wijdschip close-hauled in a fresh breeze, with other shipping

Willem van de Velde II (Leiden 1633-1707 London)
A wijdschip close-hauled in a fresh breeze, with other shipping
signed with initials 'W.V.V' (lower left, on a piece of driftwood)
oil on canvas
21 x 265/8 in. (53.3 x 67.7 cm.)
(Probably) Edward Knight (d. 1812), Wolverley House, nr. Kidderminster, by whom bequeathed to his nephew
John Knight, Portland Place, London; sale, Phillips, London, 23-4 March 1819, lot 39 (510 gns. to Woodburn).
with Samuel Woodburn, London.
Jeremiah Harman (c. 1764-1844), 18 Finsbury Square, London.
Michael Zachary (d. 1837), The Adelphi Terrace, London, from whom acquired between 1824 and 1837 by
Frederick Perkins, and by descent to
George Perkins; Christie's, London, 14 June 1890, lot 28 (945 gns. to Jeffery).
Anon. Sale, Paris, 3 June 1893, lot 16, illustrated.
with Steinmeyer, Cologne, circa 1895, from whom acquired by the great-grandfather of the present owners.
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., VI, London, 1835, pp. 347-8, no. 104, '...The shadows from the rolling clouds, and the alternate bursts of light, are admirably depicted on the surface of the restless ocean, and these, aided by the most perfect gradation of colour, lead the eye over an immense expanse of sea. This is an example of the rarest excellence, both as regards the general effect, as well as the detail; the latter of which, for delicacy of penciling, has in no instance been exceeded.'
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., VII, London, 1923, pp. 120-121, no. 479.
M.S. Robinson, The Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes, London, 1990, II, pp. 892-3, no. 725.
London, British Institution, 1836, no. 45, lent by Frederick Perkins.
London, British Institution, 1863, no. 15.
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Lot Essay

Regarded by John Smith as 'an example of the rarest excellence' (loc. cit.), this picture, which has not been on the market for over a century, belongs to a group of stormy seascapes from the earlier years of the artist's activity. It is described by Robinson, loc. cit., as having been painted 'probably substantially by the Younger (=Willem van de Velde) for the Van de Velde studio', and dated by him to circa 1660. Robinson was judging from a (probably an old) photograph, and may well have been over cautious in his judgement as the quality of execution seems to be of a very high order. Indeed Robinson notes that 'it seems certain that this is the same picture John Smith saw about 1835...so his opinion of the picture is evidence that this early picture could not have been worked on by anyone else in the studio'.

In this group of seascapes are prominent the banking cumulus clouds and dramatic lighting with the fore- and middle-grounds in shadow. Thus the wïjdschip and adjacent kaag, which is going about, are caught in bright light. The details of the shipping and waves are rendered with that sharpness brought about by bright sunlight as rain approaches, an effect accentuated by Van de Velde's mastrful restraint of palette. The contrast between the pale, billowing cumulus clouds high in the upper centre and the dark clouds down on the right, lowering over a lighter central horizon help to create a feeling of distance - Smith's 'immense expanse of sea' (ibid.) - as the ocean recedes from the viewer. This impression is further heightened by the diagonal recession of ships away from the warship in the middle distance towards a central vanishing point. As observed by Keyes, 'this evocation of the sea as a vast stage parallels van de Velde's achievement in the calms, but interpreted with greater, albeit restrained dramatic force'.


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