Six Dutch whalers are depicted in the iceflow; a polar bear is hunted on the ice, while men in shallops hunt a whale in the middle ground, the carcass of another is being flensed beyond.
The two whales depicted, in the centre and to the right, are the now rare and protected Greenland Right Whale. Whale oil was used to make soap, while polar bear was hunted for its coat.
The Dutch reached a peak in whaling c. 1680-1725, see the catalogue of the exhibition, Praise of Ships and the Sea, Rotterdam and Berlin, 1996 ,under no. 110. According to W.N. Bowner (Whales, 1980, pp. 213-14), bay whaling round Spitsbergen, which had begun early in the seventeenth century, was then in decline. The Dutch favoured hunting off the pack-ice to the north. The mountain depicted in the present picture, however, may be the Beerenberg on Jan Mayen Island in the Arctic Ocean, south-west of Spitsbergen (see the engraving of the mountain in The Whale, ed. by L.H. Matthews, 1968, p. 114).
Storck seems to have devised two compositions depicting whaling. An example of one, with the whale in the centre foreground, is in the Scheepvaart Museum, Amsterdam. The present lot is an example of the other compositions, which must have been popular as perhaps three other versions are known, of which one - that sold at Sotheby's, 12 December 1979, lot 62, was signed and dated 1688. These versions, unlike the present lot, all depict the blow of the harpooned whale in the centre.