Under a majestic sky, filled with billowing clouds, a group of fisher-folk have gathered to sell fish on the beach. Their catch is laid out on the sand and inspected by a customer. A pink has moored in the shallow water just about on the shore and other such vessels can be seen beyond; one at anchor near the coastline is being unloaded, others are still under sail.
Beach scenes were a specialty of Simon de Vlieger and he contributed significantly to its development. His interpretations had a tremendous impact on Jan van de Cappelle and Willem van de Velde the Younger. The horizontal format allowed him to experiment with powerful atmospheric effects, such as the depiction of the sky acting as a vast canopy and to create an overwhelming sense of space. For instance, the right section shows an uninterrupted view across the water surface to the horizon, with the recession into the distance subtly invoked by the decreasing scale of the shipping. De Vlieger’s beaches show a progressive development towards an increased realism and an unsurpassed tonal refinement. Professor Jan Kelch dates the present work to 1645-48, which is when De Vlieger produced his finest and most accomplished works in this genre.
This sweeping view probably represents the coast near Egmond. The same lighthouse, sitting here on the dunes and punctuating the skyline, occurs in views of Egmond by other artists, such as a painting by Cornelis Beelt sold with Christie’s in London (29 October 1999, lot 19). However, De Vlieger’s focus was not on topographical accuracy and the staffage figures, which Jan Kelch suggest were added by a different hand, are clearly subordinate to De Vlieger’s primary concern, which was to create a convincing impression of the sky, sea, beach and dunes and making the interplay of the elements of nature tangible, to which end he exploited the full mastery of his skills.
We thank Professor Jan Kelch for his assistance in the cataloguing of his lot and for confirming he will include this painting in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of De Vlieger’s work.
This lot is offered together with copies of certificates by Dr. Eduard Plietsch, Cologne, dated 11 December 1957, and by Dr. Walter Bernt, dated 11 June 1959.